The Bill Hook

About Folk Artist Rita Sanders & The Bill Hook

Through the wonder of the web, I managed to find the artist who painted the barge bill hook I found a few weeks ago in a vintage market, and which will be used as a prop for the performance of ‘The Lady of Shalott’ this Hallowe’en.

I asked Rita about her craft, boats and barge-painting so that I could understand more about this beautiful object and its history…
“I live near the Kennet and Avon canal and enjoy the wildlife and plants I encounter along its banks. As time goes on, more and more boats are seen on this particular waterway and they display a variety of canal art styles.
I’m not a boater but I love the naively of canal art. It consists of bold brush strokes, usually with enamel paint, and is built up layer by layer to create roses, leaves, daisies and sometimes other flowers.


The colours I use are traditional, and are vibrant, bright and cheery. I am self taught from a book called ‘Paint roses and castles’ by Anne Young and have painted a wide range of objects including plastic planters, galvanised watering cans, oil cans, bottles, scales, wooden spoons, terracotta pots, old flat irons and course your bill hook! I discovered the bill hook in a junk shop and thought it was an ideal object to paint.

This was a hobby whilst my children were growing up and I have not painted for some years ( I must have painted the bill hook about 20 years ago…) but with the exciting prospect of the renovation of the Wilts and Berks canal in my hometown which is now happening, plus giving up work later in the year, I am looking forward to getting stuck in and taking up canal art once more.”

Rita Sanders,
June 2015


Here’s a lovely website about the history and techniques of boat art and crafts;

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