Hands Down: Eleanor Lakelin, Woodworker

This is the second in a series of interviews  from MEMORANDUM, a collaborative journal celebrating craft, community and nature. This week Harriet Walker speaks to Eleanor Lakelin a London based Woodworker.


“I have to exercise my hands to keep them supple” although that might also be something to do with arthritis! My wrists have to be very strong, for all the carving. I’ve been scrubbing away at my hands yesterday, actually, because they went completely purple.”

The colour is thanks to the techniques and the woods that the 53- year old works with. A wood-turner, she whittles and carves chunks of dead and decommissioned trees into bowls and objects. Sometimes, when a wood contains tannins, it reacts to the metal implements she uses and dyes everything it touches.

“Its a challenging material, but that’s partly what I like about it,” she eplains. “Each tree is different. Wood is hydroscopic – it changes with the humidity and the temparature even when it’s cut down.”

Lakelin’s work has all the fluidity and curvature of a living thing, no less grained and gouged so that the hyper-real aspects of the material take new forms. One of the trees serving the purpose came from a nearby estate, the gardening records of which tell of the tree’s planting in 1710. Another was dug up from a peaty fen, discovered by a farmer and carbon dated to around 7000 years old.

“It’s almost like they’re carrying on, or starting another life,” Lakelin says. “They’ve decayed and been taken down, but that doesn’t have to be the end of their lives. They go on another journey – I like the fact that it’s a sort of living material.”

Lakelin is keen to stress that her work has had a similar sort of cycle, and that her growth as an artist is never truly done. “I’m still learning really,” she says. “There are a lot of happy accidents!”

Interview by Harriet Walker

Photography by Tess Hurrell

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