Trug maker Tony Hitchcock is a survivor of a critically endangered species. According to the Heritage Crafts Association (of which The Prince of Wales is president), the Golden Bay artisan woodworker practises an ancient craft in danger of dying out in England, its country of origin.

Trugs are traditional shallow baskets made from shaped slats of wood, used for carrying garden tools and produce, and perfected in Sussex two centuries ago. Tony still uses original techniques to keep the craft alive from his workshop just outside Takaka.

Tony’s workshop can be found in the Anatoki Valley just outside of Takaka (Photo: Alistair Hughes)

“After I made the first one I was quite excited,” recalls Tony. “It just feels so natural, working with untreated alternative timbers. In winter you harvest your rims and handles and it’s such an enjoyable process. Taking a little handsaw, pottering along the river bank, and bringing timber home to render and steam. And with coppicing, it grows back.”

Tony is describing only the first steps in a precision process which results in a truly beautiful, and practical object. The frame is generally made of hazel or willow, with the slats forming the basket shaped from aspen poplar. The design also incorporates locally sourced copper boat-builder’s nails, while finishing strips (also copper) are salvaged from retired hot-water cylinders.

On seeing the final product, there’s an irresistible tactile quality to the combination of planed timbers and carefully assembled curves.

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