Liam Cartmel-Walker

2021 QEST Howdens Apprentice - Slate masonry

Slate has been mined and quarried in Cumbria for hundreds of years, and Liam is a fourth-generation member of a slate-working family. For eight months he has been working at Coniston Stonecraft, the last slate manufacturers in the South Lakes. Established in 1976, the company creates bespoke and luxury handmade British slate products. 

With support from QEST, Liam’s two year apprenticeship will cover all aspects of the work including selecting slate clog mined from the local quarries, riving, splitting, cutting, edging, polishing, coring, engraving, linishing and waxing. He will complete his studies one day a week at Furness College, Cumbria, and also upgrade his computer skills by learning CAD design and CNC manufacture. 

Liam hopes to become a qualified slate mason and a highly skilled crafts person and sees himself having a long career at Coniston Stonecraft. His longer term aim is not just to help manufacture the company’s current range of household and kitchen products but to design and manufacture some of his own creations such as lamps, wine racks clocks and garden structures, all of which will showcase both his skills and the inherent beauty of Westmorland green slate and Brathay blue-grey slate from the Lake District area.

I’m learning my skills from two highly experienced slate mason mentors – Andy and George – in a proper small manufacturing company in perhaps the most beautiful spot in the UK. For a lad like me from a family steeped in slate history it’s everything I ever wanted. My great-grandad, grandad and father are all pleased and proud that I am carrying on our family’s involvement in the Cumbrian slate industry – we form a tangible human chain back into the slate history of South Cumbria. We take the most interesting bits of this beautiful stone, cut, core, rive, polish, dress, linish and carve it into something of use, value and beauty. It’s not easy but it is very fulfilling to create things that have such natural beauty.