STEVE OVERTHROW TRADITIONAL SIEVE & RIDDLE MAKER
On the bank of the River Parrett in Langport sits an old building called Great Western House AKA Shakespear Glass Buiding.
Inside you will find various craftspeople working who are known as The Langport Creative Collective.
It was here I arranged to meet and photograph Steve Overthrow who has revived the dead art of producing handmade Sieve’s and Riddle’s
Steve who worked on vintage Riley cars for 9 years has always had a passion for the old slow paced ways of working when things were built to last by craftsmen.
The car job eventually came to an end and Steve took up other work.
It was in June 2017 that Steve received a newsletter from Heritage Crafts Association. In there was an article that said that Sieve and Riddle making as extinct.
Steve told me.
I had a look, though I could do with a good Sieve and I remember sitting down and doing some research to find out how to make the tools.
There was next to no information, other than a video audiobook on the Guardian website and the social media trail left by the last Sieve maker who had died, unfortunately, a few years after taking it on from Mike Turnock who had done it since the ’70s
The craft became extinct, and everything including tooling, patterns knowledge was lost or binned. Extinct for 5 years.
I had to relearn everything, picking every piece of info out of the limited text and pictures I could find.
Come March the 13th 2018, I had made the tooling to make the Sieves and Riddles and had my first Sieve made. I took a picture, put it on social media which the Heritage Crafts shared.
With a stroke of luck, A lady got in touch via social media saying her family made sieves and her brother had been the last one to run the family business but it no longer existed. She asked if I would like to see the bits she had from it like newspaper cuttings and a video etc. I said yes please and send her a private message. She said my brother ‘Mike’ had run the business, I said wait a minute, do you mean Mike Turnock?
Yes, that’s him have you been in touch? He had retired to Bridport which was an hour away from me, just amazing !!
I eventually met Mike who was extremely helpful in helping with all the little niggily things that I could never have researched, meshes, wires sizes, uses, sources, the knowledge he was only too happy to share all with me, and to this day I can’t thank him enough.
I still wake up in the morning just wanting to stand at the bench with the radio on, making all day. And just slowly, I’m starting to get back that being in the 1930’s feel that first made me feel so at home 13 years ago.
The whole process happens in-house, from cutting, to steam bending, to weaving or fitting the meshes. Most are made to order, everything bespoke, 15-year guarantee, expected life is 60 – 80 years plus…. 0% plastic. Handmade in Somerset, England.