I was lucky enough to spend the other day learning how to make traditional willow lobster pots. My teacher was a true expert, a retired shell-fisherman who’d been making ‘withy’ pots all his life, learning the craft when he was a lad from an uncle.
The day started early with a trip to the withy beds- willow that is coppiced right back each winter to produce long, straight, pliable rods. You need to cut a lot of willow to make a pot.
Once they had been stripped of any leaves and the wider tips had been whittled, we set the rods out in the pattern jig and started weaving. There’s a lot of difference regionally between traditional crab and lobster pots, due to local resources and individual techniques. I’ve made bamboo fish traps before in Asia and the aim is the same there- entice the prey into a baited chamber through an entrance that won’t also serve as an exit.
The form of a cornish lobster pot slowly started to emerge from the jig, as I was taught each step and then practised practised practised. The real bonus of learning from someone who’s lived the life is knowing why each feature is so important. Fishermen have been dragged overboard by poorly made pots.
It was a great day but above all it was nice to work with my hands practicing a disappearing craft from close to home. Thank you David.