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The history of
British Craft
British Craft

Many of our AUTHOR makers still use traditional crafting methods to create their exquisite designs. As important as it is to adapt to new technologies that can aid in creating pieces, it is important to keep these traditional techniques alive. These making methods have stood the test of time as they are important to our heritage and also allow us to understand how to design and create more sustainably in a rapidly changing world.


Image along with hero image from Araminta Campbell

The textile industry has a long history in Britain. Before the Industrial Revolution, textile work was created by weavers in their homes using handlooms, making everything individually with their own tools and at their own pace. The predominant fibre in medieval Europe at the time was wool followed by linen.

With the Industrial Revolution, cotton became the most important textile in Britain with new machinery being invented to create textiles faster and on mass. Areas with damp climates became the hubs of the cotton industry such as South Lancashire and Glasgow as it was the best climate for spinning the yarn.

Image from Moon & Sons

Some of our makers’ companies date back to these times. Abraham Moon and Sons who create our stunning Alpaca Wool and Mohair Throws is one of the last remaining vertical woollen mills in Britain. A vertical mill is the term used when all processes in producing the textile take place on one site. Founded in 1837, Abraham Moon supplied yarn to families living north of Leeds and south of the Yorkshire Dales to make cloth in their homes on handlooms. He would then pay the weavers for their work before locally washing the cloth (known as scouring) and then transport the cloth by horse and cart to sell at the market. This is how textiles were made before the technical advancements that came with the Industrial Revolution.

In 1868, Moon had built a three-storey mill that had an ample source of local water for scouring. Sadly this mill burnt down in 1902 but Abraham’s son, Isaac, had another mill built that was fully vertical and is the mill still used by the company today as well as the local water for scouring.

Image from Johnstons of Elgin

Johnstons of Elgin, founded in 1797, is the last remaining vertical mill in Scotland and produces our gorgeous Mauve Taupe Cashmere Throws. Alexander Johnston established the mill in Elgin on the banks of the River Lossie and the mill has remained and expanded there ever since producing high-quality cashmere textiles for Royalty, fashion houses and luxury brands.

These companies still use handweaving and stitching methods for their pieces to retain high quality. Araminta Campbell’s MINTA collection, of which we feature the Willow Throw, is all handwoven from British alpaca wool on handlooms in her studio in Edinburgh, keeping the rich tradition of handweaving live and well.

Araminta Campbell in her studio
Willow Throw

It was not only the manufacturing of textiles that has a long tradition in Britain but also the execution of finishes. William Clark in Northern Ireland has been creating their beautiful glossy sheen linen since 1736. The mill used a waterwheel that powered the beetling engine, a machine where vertical wooden blocks pound down for hours on linen fabric to give it a beautiful sheen. This can be seen in our Dappled Beetle cushions made from William Clark’s Dappled Beetle Linen.

Beetling engine at William Clark & Sons


Image from Mallon Foundry

Bronze casting has an ancient history in Britain. Dating back to the 3rd millennium BC, the lost-wax process, also known as cire perdue (lost wax in French), is a technique still used today all over the world. The method gets its name as molten metal is poured into a wax model that is ‘lost’ during the process. It is one of the casting methods that produces the most detail.

The Salmon of Knowledge Bronze Sculpture by Mallon Foundry

In Country Tyrone, Northern Ireland, metal artist Charlie Mallon runs Mallon Foundry where he crafts limited edition bronze sculptures using the lost-wax method, replicating the process as the ancient Celts did it. His sculptures depict Celtic myths, each with their own story such as Fiacc the Raven and The Salmon of Knowledge. These gorgeous sculptures not only keep a traditional craft alive but also the folklore of our past.

Bronze fruit by Alice Andrea Ewing

Another artist using the lost-wax method in a unique way is Alice Andrea Ewing. Through the collaborative project Pomarius, Alice casts natural specimens such as poppies and figs from gardens, historical locations and ancient trees in Britain into bronze. All of Alice’s work is seasonal, cast directly from the organic specimen showing every detail and wonder of its form. They are truly stunning pieces and the founder of AUTHOR has even had pears grown on the grounds of AUTHOR HQ cast into bronze by Alice.

Image from Neil Lemaire

The lost-wax technique is also known as ceramic shell bronze casting as clay is used to make the mold from the wax model. Neil Lemaire is an inspiring bronze artist in London who creates stunning bowls and vessels using this method. Neil’s pieces are inspired by the connections between the natural world and engineering. Spontaneous processes such as erosion, deposition and gravity are harnessed and underwater structures like oil rigs, wind farms and jetties that have been reclaimed by nature and have marine growth, play a part in influencing the forms of Neil’s work.

Neil’s pieces almost inhabit the world between art and artefact with their blue patination symbolising the natural processes that happen with time. It also represents the rich heritage of bronze casting in Britain and how it is still alive today.


Steam bent Loop Oval Tray by Tom Trimmins

Much of the history of woodworking in Britain is noted from the 13th century onwards. It is widely viewed that woodworking was done by hand up until the Industrial Revolution when different woodworking tools were created.

Steam bending, where wood is exposed to steam and then bent and molded into a new shape, is an ancient technique that is said to date back to the Ancient Egyptians. It was later used for boat building and creating items such as violins. It became more common to use this method for creating furniture in the 18th and 19th centuries with the production of the Windsor Chair and the work of Michael Thonet.

Shaker swallow tail joint on Loop Oval Mirror by Tom Trimmins

Steam bending is still used today as it is a more ecological, economical and low energy way of manipulating wood as not much waste is created. Tom Trimmins produces steam-bent pieces such as trays and mirrors from reclaimed wood found in various timber yards around North London. His pieces are truly exquisite, showing off the grain and colour of the timber beautifully. Tom also uses traditional cabinet-making techniques such as swallow-tail joints. Little wood is used as possible with his pieces to ensure sustainability.

Windsor Rocker by Katie Walker Furniture

Another beautiful design that uses steam bending is the Windsor Rocker by Katie Walker Furniture. Katie makes this beautiful rocking chair in collaboration with other fine furniture makers in Britain from locally sourced sustainable timber. The band that forms the frame and rocker of the chair stretches the limitations of steam bending and is exquisite. It is no wonder why this chair, with its design firmly rooted in the Windsor chair making tradition, has won the Design Guild  Mark no.101.

Britain has a wealth of history in the different processes of crafting. Many of these techniques are still to this day the most sustainable way to make furniture. AUTHOR is delighted to feature makers that are keeping these traditional crafting methods alive and producing furniture and interior accessories which focus on slow design and sustainability.

About the Author


Written by Jane Adams, founder of Author Interiors. LinkedIn:

Read more about her here.

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