Prelude To A Broken Back
Cornwall Design Season, a 9 week, multi-site celebration of Cornish creativity and ingenuity. The spine of which is an exhibition of Cornish design stories, interpreted as an installation by an artist or designer in fifteen different shipping containers throughout Cornwall.
I was given the story of the Cornish Shovel to bring to life.
Nominated by: Paul Masters, Assistant Chief Executive, Cornwall Council
Exhibition designed by: Dion Star
Location: Carbis Bay Beach, St Ives / 19 Feb – 2 Apr
A Libra, a Lurgan, a Cardigan, and a Pasty. These names are all associated with a design more commonly recognised as the Cornish Shovel. This humble tool’s simple but life-changingly efficient design has made hard physical labour that much more bearable – from 18th-century mines to 21st century gardens.
Whatever you wish to call it, this device was developed in the early 1700s to help Cornish miners dig in cramped conditions with minimal back-lift. Unlike the unforgiving English Spade, the Cornish Shovel spared unnecessary back strain – its long, arcing handle and pointed head allowed the user to dig and twist the shovel, loosening the rock or soil while keeping an upright posture and providing enough leverage to prise open the hard, rocky ground miners had to dig through.
As Cornish miners migrated in the mid-19th century, escaping mining’s decline at home and following the mineral bounty in the New World, so their superior shovels joined them and their reputation spread. Stories tell of miners using their Cornish Shovels as makeshift oven trays to hold over campfires, as well as impromptu pasty-flinging competitions with their shovels in their spare time. Whether this is true or not is up for debate, but one thing is for sure – their creation has made digging a whole lot less painful for dozens of generations of people. Gardeners the world over will be nodding their heads.
Story written by: Stranger Collective
Photos 2, 3 & 4 courtesy of Katrina Aleksa