Cadgwith, Cornwall - U.K.
Nigel has known the sea all his life. Born into a family of fishermen Nigel left school when he was 15 and joined the merchant navy to quench his thirst for adventure and travel. After a few years he had saved enough money to buy his father’s fishing boat, it was from that point forward he fished out of Cadgewith Cove. Nigel turned 66 this year and although he is retired from full scale commercial fishing, he still goes out daily on his boat the Razorbill. He catches enough lobster to supply his daughter Sain’s restaurant in nearby Lizard. Though he has no sons to carry on the family occupation, Nigel has 5 grandchildren ages ranging from 1 to 11; there may still be one who will take up his mantle.
When he was a boy, making lobster pots was an essential skill that every fisherman needed to know. However. once modern plastic and steel pots were invented the craft of weaving lobster pots vanished overnight. A woven pot will last 1 season whereas a modern pot could last for 10-12 seasons. For 20 years Nigel didn't weave any pots, it was only until someone had asked him to make one as a decoration that he saw the opportunity to create a niche market for a lost skill. He is one of the few people in Cornwall if not the U.K. who still makes these woven pots. Nigel's clientele are tv shows like the recent BBC production of Poldark, feature films, high end home design boutiques, and private collectors. Sourcing the willow from Somerset, it takes Nigel 3 days to weave a single pot. A task he used to despise growing up now provides a steady source of income during the winter when he is able to produce about 200 pots.
Sadly the only other traditional pot makers that Nigel is aware of are older than him. He is keen to teach the younger generation of fishermen working out of Cadgewith Cove. Traditionally it was a skill passed on from father to son but most of the younger generation are indifferent to it. It is a shame since it can provide an excellent way to generate extra income during the winter when fishing can be less reliable and there is definite demand for it.
In addition to being a fisherman and lobster pot maker, Nigel is an accomplished artist. Specializing in nautical themed oil paintings on canvas and tin cans, he has twice exhibited in London to much acclaim. He has not exhibited recently, preferring to sell directly to his clients than make the 4 hour drive to London. Nigel also dabbles in film and television. He looks exactly like you would picture a fisherman from a Hemingway novel, a fact not lost on casting directors who cast him in the Fisherman's Apprentice in 2012.
Before I knew it my time with Nigel was up. The Razorbill was filled with petrol and packed with baited traps. Nigel had put on his bright yellow waders and his cap, “I’ve got to go now” he said mater of factly. With that he tipped his cap and I waved goodbye.