Future & Postponed Willow Basket & Animal Sculpture Days – 18/2/21
There must be a little hope and optimism in the air as I’m now receiving new enquiries almost every day from lovely people wishing to book onto future Willow Days!
I’m really grateful for these new enquiries, my livelihood depends upon my teaching, but it’s currently a case for me of more workshop date and time organisation, a little more patience from both my existing postponed workshop clientele and new enquirers and increasingly more prayer over my bank balance being able to stretch through until Autumn 2021.
I’m awaiting the government’s announcement on the 22nd February over the easing of lockdown before I release the dates for all of my postponed Willow Days. It currently looks as though I will be rearranging at least 4 months of Willow Basket & Animal Sculpture Days. Teaching 4 of these workshops a month, it means that I now have around 100 eager attendees who are wishing, as soon as possible, to finally be taught by me. Many of these lovely people have due to the 3 Covid-19 lockdowns already had their Willow Day postponed not just once, often twice and sometimes now even 3 times! I’m so incredibly grateful to all my postponed students who have been willing to ‘hang on in there’ for me, not requested refunds, who believe in me, and know that as soon as I am able to, I am determined to teach them.
But this is where it gets tricky… due to the demand for my Willow Days, all students pay for the workshop in full at the time of booking. This means that I currently have many postponed Willow Day attendees who have paid me for their workshops right back in October 2019. It is each of their willingness to postpone, along with my adopted husband Rishi Sunak’s Covid-19 self-employment income support scheme that has kept me from being in debt, loosing my livelihood and potentially my home. I’ve always known that at some point during this pandemic I would most likely face a money ‘gap’, a time where I will not be receiving income support from the government and will be unable to generate new teaching income. I’m now having to work out a balancing act for my Willow Days, I must create new income whilst teaching all my postponed students. What I need to somehow also do is balance all of my practice and teaching business alongside living ‘well’. What I mean by this is that I cannot through overworking push myself back again into a state of chronic illness, one in which I’m shattered everyday and barely able to look after my two girls let alone keep working. To be truthful, I’m yet to find the answer, (if the answer is obvious to you then I’d be really grateful if you could let me know), but I am trying my hardest to find the solution.
I’ve been working on making my business more sustainable, creating a new willow lighting and furniture range. I’ve just begun, alongside 16 other UK basketmakers, a brilliant Business Development Programme run by Cockpit Arts in London. When I can, alongside my attempt since the New Year at homeschooling, I have been making in willow and rush. Not only weaving for others, but realising my own need to weave for myself, ‘weaving for wellness’ so to speak. I’ve been promising myself an adventurous future, one I’ve dreamed of creating for years, so I’ve finally been creating my bespoke willow and rush interior for my T2 New Bay VW campervan. As well as this enabling me to practice willow square work and skein work techniques I’m picking up skills in weaving rush (bespoke rush sunshades and coffee cup holder anyone?!) Sound frivolous? Well over the last couple of months it has at times felt so, but then I remember that I’m finally taking onboard the ‘being alive’ advice of wisdom filled people who I’ve been lucky enough to meet in recent years.
Shortly after the 22nd February I will announce my Summer Willow Day teaching dates, prioritising my postponed students and gift voucher holders. I so look forward to teaching my Willow Days again, especially in the new classroom that I will be taking on at Coates English Willow. A few weeks more of patience with fingers crossed, and then hopefully the path forward will be revealed. Sarah X