The Wicker Men

The Wicker Men

A caffeine-fuelled masterclass in the Slow Movement for London Craft Week

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Mick Gregory drinks seven cups of tea in the morning before work and – although at the moment it’s hard to see how this effects his work productivity (he’s quietly glueing a wooden frame together, whilst his colleague Phil Ayres deftly threads the cane through a lampshade frame at a quick speed) – it looks like they are both working at an accelerated and well-caffeinated pace.

The reality is that technique and process does look effortless when you have worked at your craft and with your chosen materials for so long. Ayres & Gregory are 2 of small team of weavers based in Leicestershire, whose workshop was taken on by Soane when it faced closure in 2011. It is the last surviving rattan workshop in Britain. Ayres started rattan weaving in 1969 (‘It takes a good 10-15 years to pick everything up,’ he says).Circled around him are a group of people intently watching his fingers knit the cane around the frame. It feels less a demonstration and more a meeting of like minds.

One can imagine that Ayres and Gregory wonder, really, what all the fuss is about. This is part of the pleasure of London Craft Week – the modest yet highly skilled craftsperson taking centre stage, if only for a few days. The ever-avuncular Ayres seems more than happy to gently explain how it all works and persuades his interested audience into having a go at weaving themselves. He laughs as he recalls going to a craft conference a few years ago, ‘They said, you’re now members of the Slow Movement and you even got a badge with a tortoise on it!’

Imagine what it would be like without the caffeine.

Soane Britain
London Craft Week