Farfield Mill is a heritage building with galleries, studio space, a shop and café, but more than that it is a community. Working from open studios on all levels of the building are some of the most talented makers and artists that Cumbria has to offer who together provide a showcase of traditional and contemporary arts and crafts.

Some of their work has revived the tradition of textiles at the Victorian woollen mill with weaving and cloth making taking place once again, along with pottery, painting, print making and many more activities taking place in the studios that now occupy the building.

The mill was started in 1836 when Joseph Dover bought nine acres of land, for £490, on which to build. It was completed the following year, but Joseph died the year after that and his sons John and James took on the mill, which had six looms.

Angela Bradley's studioAngela Bradley's studio (Image: Sheenah Alcock)

In 1851 the brothers built a row of cottages for mill workers. When John Dover – a man of “remarkable tact and foresight in business matters” according to his obituary – died in 1879, his sons, Edward and Thomas, took over.

Just before the turn of the 20th century, the water wheel was replaced by a vortex electric turbine by Gilbert Gilkes & Co, which still exists in Kendal today. Although a fire in 1909 took out the mill’s roof and windows, the structure survived and the building was refurbished.

On the death of the third generation of Dovers the company went bankrupt and was acquired by Farfield Spinning Company. The mill continued to be used for storage, spinning, knitting, some weaving and even cheese making and was requisitioned to make aircraft parts as part of the war effort.

Susannah Harpham's minaturesSusannah Harpham's minatures (Image: Sheenah Alcock)

Pennine Tweeds was set up in 1980 but the last large scale, commercially woven fabric in the mill was made in 1992.

It was then that a local group set up the Sedbergh and District Buildings Preservation Trust to raise money and save the mill and the looms for future generations. In 2001 Farfield Mill opened to the public as an arts and heritage centre.

It is now owned and run by Farfield Mill Limited, a charitable community benefit society that is owned and run by its members for the benefit of the wider community. Its mission is to honour and preserve the mill’s textile heritage providing a hub for creative enterprises, engaging visitors with, and fostering their appreciation of, weaving and other traditional and contemporary arts and crafts, and helping them to understand the significance of the history of the local wool industry.

Farfield Mill CafeFarfield Mill Cafe (Image: Sheenah Alcock)

The mill converted from a charitable company in 2018 and launched a community share offer which raised nearly £250,000 from private investors and matched funding of £100,000 from Coops UK: Power to Change.

The money raised allowed a significant portion of the mortgage on the mill to be paid off and investment to give the mill a sustainable future.

As well as the artists who rent studio space, the galleries stock work by other local artists and the mill hosts a regular programme of exhibitions.

Farfield Mill is open from Wednesday to Sunday and on Bank Holiday Mondays from 10.30am-4pm. farfieldmill.org

Angele BradleyAngele Bradley (Image: Sheenah Alcock)


Angela’s handmade knitwear is instantly recognisable: stripey hats and scarves and intricately patterned jumpers that reflect the ever-changing colours in the landscape around Sedbergh. Like the days, no two pieces are the same.

She has lived in the town for more than 50 years; she loves the area and adores her work. “It isn’t work to me. If I don’t do it I feel bereft,” she says. “I went to America for three months to see my daughter and couldn’t believe how much I missed it. It’s part of me.”

Angela uses 100 per cent Shetland lambs’ wool and knits on a machine in her studio at the mill, which is the only outlet where customers can buy her work.

“The hats are to a set pattern but with the jumpers I don’t plan anything, I just go with where they take me, so I have to be in a creative mood to make them. I have no record of what I make, and they are all unique.

“My favourite colours are the greens, muted colours that reflect the landscape, but if I only made what I liked I wouldn’t have much of a market, so I use the full range.”

They include bright, fun colours selected from her wall of yarns, which is an artwork in itself.

Angela used to run Stone Close Café, in nearby Dent, then had a catering business. She got a degree in educational studies in her late 30s and taught herself how to do what she does now. “Why I didn’t do textiles at university I don’t know. My love of knitting started at a very early age when I knitted clothes for my dolls,” she says. “I got my first knitting machine 40 years ago and have been at the mill since the day it opened in 2001.

“I can walk to work. There is definitely a social side to the mill, Friday is cake day for instance. We’re all part of a community, and I do something here that I absolutely love.”

Caz BarberCaz Barber (Image: Sheenah Alcock)


Caz runs two businesses from her studio: a brand of hand poured, scented candles she developed with her daughter Rosie and an upcycled furniture business.

Caz, a retired performing arts teacher, explains: “Both parts started in lockdown. I had retired just before then and furniture upcycling was a hobby, I just played around with it but then in lockdown I started doing bigger pieces with all the time I had and people encouraged me to sell them.

“I watched a lot of YouTube tutorials and did a lot of experimenting and worked out what works and what doesn’t.

“I source furniture from charity shops, house clearances and people give me pieces. I try to focus on vintage or retro pieces then make them into something original. I work on all the smaller pieces in the studio and it’s a good feeling giving them a new life and keeping them out of landfill.”

Most recently, Caz has started upcycling wooden bowls and platters.

The candle-making began at their kitchen table. They use natural soy wax and cotton/linen blend wicks. “There were times when the kitchen looked more like a science laboratory. Rosie, who works as a primary school teacher, sources samples of premium quality fragrance oil and decides which complement each other and the rest of the range.”

There are currently seven scents, including Rhubarb and Rose, Rosewood and Velvet and Seasalt and Sage, available in 150ml glass jars and 90ml tins.

Libby Scott, an old school friend of Rosie’s from Queen Katherine School, in Kendal, designed the Roesk branding. The next project is wedding favour candles which Rosie is developing for her own wedding in October.


Keith BarberKeith Barber (Image: Sheenah Alcock)


Once Keith identified an untapped source for selvedge – the small strips of waste fabric cut off on a loom – from top end woollen mills in the UK there has been no stopping his production of unique, handmade rugs.

A retired drama teacher and assistant head, Keith discovered that he was continuing a family legacy of weaving in starting Gneiss Rugs going back to Joseph Denton, who born in 1700 and was weaver, a profession followed by most of his ancestors up until modern times.

“Once I retired I was looking for a hobby and saw someone online using a peg loom, then I discovered a ball of this fabric in a shop. I’ve been on a journey ever since.”

Keith uses a handmade peg loom, one of the oldest forms of weaving in the UK, to weave the salvedge through Nutscene twine warp thread. Sourcing tweed salvedge from mills such as Melin Tregwynt, in Pembrokeshire, where there has been a mill since the 17th century, and Mallalieus, at Delph, near Oldham.

“Sometimes I get some really interesting pieces with a great back story, such as salvedge of Bruce of Kinnaird Ancient from Locharron of Scotland, which is supplied to Vivienne Westwood. Mallalieus supply people like Prada.

“All these mills are among the few that have managed to survive.”

He has made and sold around 1,000 rugs already and has also been commission to make window seats and wall hangings.

“The unique selling point of the rugs is their thickness, which is around three centimetres depending on the tweed,” he explains.

“The process of making them is calming, almost meditative; it’s a pleasure and a privilege. Creating something is a really human urge. It makes me happy that customers love them and keep coming back for more.”



Susannah HarphamSusannah Harpham (Image: Sheenah Alcock)


Susannah moved into her studio in the mill a couple of years ago but knows the venue well from previously working there on reception.

Having worked as a commercial photographer, she turned ‘official’ as an artist in lockdown and paints mostly animals, wildlife and occasionally landscapes in watercolour, pastel and sometimes acrylic.

“I did an art foundation course many years ago but I’ve no formal training as such,” she says. “I’m more self-taught and I’ve learned as I’ve gone on, sometimes the hard way.

“I just starting painting and drawing and it became something I did every day, like art therapy. It has just evolved and I feel very passionate about it now.

“People enjoy coming into the studio to have a look and we get chatting. Customers often like animals and I do paint pet portraits to commission. Hares used to be my absolute favourite and I can paint them now without using a picture, but my current obsession is owls.”

As well as offering a range of different sized framed originals and prints, Susannah paints miniature originals in acrylic on coaster-size pieces of wood while bookmarks, greeting cards and keyrings are low-cost options.


Wendy Ann StangerWendy Ann Stanger (Image: Sheenah Alcock)


Wendy Ann travels from her home in Penrith to work from her studio at the mill three days per week.

She uses plant and animal fibres, such as bamboo, linen, silk and wool, as well dry pressed flowers in her unique work which has applications as artwork, lampshades, purses, brooches, greeting cards and embroidered hoops.

The wet fibres are layered between felt and paper, dried and then hand sewn with embroidered embellishment.

Wendy has a design and crafts degree from the University of Cumbria 20 years ago and worked as an art teacher at Richard Rose Central Academy and Trinity School, in Carlisle. “I was shown the process of silk paper making or fibre fusion at university and I’ve developed it over the years,” she says. “I also got into preserving wedding flowers in works of art so they could be kept forever, and now I combine the two. I sometimes combine them with plant prints too using the Gelli plate method.

“Every piece is unique, even if I try to make the same piece I generally can’t.”

Wendy Ann had a studio at the mill until 2017 and returned this year. “There aren’t many communities of artists like this. There are lots of talented creatives in Cumbria but not enough hubs to bring them together.”

Wendy Ann also offers kits for people to try the craft at home.



Ruth ClaytonRuth Clayton (Image: Sheenah Alcock)


Ruth shares a double studio with her partner, artist Stuart Gray, where they work, teach and sell their art. Their work could not be more different, so their studio provides plenty for visitors to view.

Ruth paints large, dramatic seascapes that capture the energy of the oceans and the weather, predominately in watercolour. “I love the sea with its patterns and colours. Watching the ocean is like a meditation for me,” she says.

Ruth qualified as a graphic designer, specialising in illustration, at Leeds Metropolitan University in 1986 then gained a teaching qualification at Manchester University. She taught art at Bolton School and has always taught adults alongside her classroom teaching.

“I left that around ten years ago then decided I had built up quite a nice clientele of adult students so thought I’d continue doing that while also having a gallery for selling my work as well,” she explains. This was at Cedar Farm, a farm-based creative hub of studios and retail spaces with a café at Mawdesley, near Chorley.

Stuart had a bolthole at Sedbergh and Ruth bought a lodge nearby. Now they are waiting for their new-build home together to be completed in the town.

“The mill is a great space. Living in a lodge and a caravan, we couldn’t work there and here we have studio space and facilities to sell without having to be here all the time.

“We love everybody at the mill, it’s like a little family and we get inspired by everybody else.”

Ruth teaches workshops in the mill and also offers private tuition.



Stuart GrayStuart Gray (Image: Sheenah Alcock)


Stuart’s career as an artist has taken many directions, beginning with four years at art college, working for more than 20 years in design studios, specifically in exhibition design and illustration, then spending the latter half of his career as an art lecturer and course leader of graphic design at Wigan & Leigh College.

Working primarily in acrylic paint, Stuart’s work combines his love of the work of the Dutch masters Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt and his love of birds, resulting in instantly recognisable still lifes. His softly lit native birds sit quietly among everyday objects with dark backgrounds emphasising light and shadow, using mostly acrylic.

“Ruth and I had been friends for many years and she invited me to start teaching adults alongside her at Cedar Farm.

“I’ve always liked still life. Everybody paints birds in their natural surroundings so I decided to put the bird in a still life setting on books or on a jar of paint brushes. I hope they’re memorable, and people do seem to like them.”



Suzie WrightSuzie Wright (Image: Sheenah Alcock)


Pottery has been a second career for Suzie who studied ceramics in the 1980s. “I had always kept it going as a sideline and it was always my plan to go back to it. My work and love of ceramics in an ongoing fun adventure,” she says.

“I always enjoyed the science and technical aspects, the chemistry and the firing. I was taught how to fire a kiln at the age of 17 and I’ve dug my own clay to make my slips.”

Suzie has two kilns at her home in Askrigg, in the Yorkshire Dales, and she fires for other artists and runs pottery workshops.

She works in stoneware, handbuilding hares and birds, vessels and other sculptural pieces. Her current focus is her messenger birds.

“Because I’m an experimental artist I don’t stick with the same things. I don’t do any casting so every piece is original and unique.

“My ideas come from what I experience every day, running and walking in the fields and hills where we live, and people can also commission me to do something in particular.”

Suzie and artist Carol Yates met at an artists’ cooperative in Askrigg and both being animal artists decided to team up in their shared studio at Farfield Mill in September last year.



Carol YatesCarol Yates (Image: Sheenah Alcock)


It was a trip to Holland in 2012 that inspired Carol to pick up her pastels and become a full-time artist.

“I have always done painting but when you work full-time you don’t have the time. Then I visited a gallery in Holland where I saw a huge canvas with fruit in the centre and I was just really drawn to it.

“It inspired me and the first thing I created after that was fruit on canvas. I haven’t stopped since then trying different things, mostly in pastel. I like experimenting with different media such as watercolour and oil but I find pastel is the most versatile.

“I like the immediacy of it; you don’t have to wait for it to dry and it’s a particularly good medium for animals and birds, which are my main subjects.”

Carol worked in a local authority library service then moved to the Army library service and was based in Germany for 12 years before moving into military resettlement as a careers consultant, at Catterick Garrison, in North Yorkshire.

Like Suzie, she works in the studio where her originals, prints, cards and notebooks are for sale alongside Suzie’s ceramics.



Stuart WilkieStuart Wilkie (Image: Sheenah Alcock)


There is no mistaking what Stuart does when you visit his studio – his 1868 Albion Press is at the heart of the space and Stuart enjoys nothing more than demonstrating how it works.

Stuart, a retired GP, had a longstanding interest in relief printmaking using lino and and wood engraving and moved in Farfield Mill in late 2020.

“I had always loved coming to the Lake District and came from Worcestershire when we both retired. I wanted to spend more time doing my art and this was the opportunity. The mill is a brilliant place because I have large, heavy kit which is very difficult to keep in a domestic situation.”

As well as the Albion for printing from wood engravings, he also has a roller press for lino printing, mostly monochromatic.

Stuart explains: “My art teacher at school was very keen that I did art. My printing starts with sketches and have books full of them. There is no shortage of inspiring scenes around here.

“My smaller relief prints are wood engravings created by carving the printing block on the end grain of boxwood or lemonwood. Lino printing enables the creation of larger, bolder images.

“The great thing about have an open studio is that it’s such a creative space, it’s very inspiring.”



Izzy StothertIzzy Stothert (Image: Sheenah Alcock)


Izzy’s studio, which she shares with Kirsty Gillan, is to be found on the top floor of the mill, in the light-filled eaves.

Having previously worked as a florist as well, Izzy is now focusing on weaving, in particular concentrating on offering Weaving for Peace of Mind workshops and one-to-one weaving tuition in her studio.

“After having a studio at the mill on my own for seven years, it’s refreshing to share the space with a friend and fellow creative, Kirsty. We have lots of ideas for collaboration in the pipeline and enjoy bouncing ideas off each other.

“I’m still only working with natural and sustainable fibres but introducing new techniques and pattern structures.”




Kirsty GillanKirsty Gillan (Image: Sheenah Alcock)


Kirsty is a seamstress focusing on repairs and reviving outdoor wear and kit.

“Izzy makes fabric and I make things out of fabric,” she says.

She studied fashion textiles and qualified as an outdoor instructor. “Pre-lockdown I had started thinking that I wanted to do something that combined the outdoors and sewing so I moved to the Lakes to work for Aiguille, in Staveley, then freelance doing repairs for Mountain Equipment and part-time for Dirtbags Climbing.

Working on turning an old sleeping bag into salopettes, she says: “I feel there is a real need for repairing and reworking all the kit people have to save things from going in the bin and landfill.

“The minute I said I was going it there was such demand. A lot of brands are starting to see the value in it but they have huge waiting lists for repairs. As well as repairing things, when things are past the point of repair I can rework them into something else to give them a whole new life.”