Last Friday the 18th January I had the privilege of teaching one of my Willow Sculpture Basket Days to a really lovely group of people at Coates English Willow on the Somerset Levels.
The day was made really special for me by having extra visitors. Eddie Barnard, one of the fantastic remaining commercial basket makers of a grand generation, popped in to say hello and joined in with an animated conversation about the current situation for commercial basket makers in the UK. Then in the afternoon Hilary Burns, a brilliant basket maker and grower of willow from South Devon dropped in. In preparation for a new exhibition piece, Hilary was researching a basket in the Coates museum. I’m very thankful to Hilary, for over the past few years she’s really rooted for me, understanding my need to learn the craft. Hilary was the maker and teacher who told me to ignore my fears that I would never yet be good enough, to ignore my thinking to wait at least 5 years before teaching basket making, and declared that I should “get out there and start now!” Take a look at Hilary’s fabulous baskets at www.hilaryburns.com
Fantastic freewoven and (what I call), stake-and-strand’esque baskets were made by absolute beginners and those with basket making experience. Below are extracts from emails that have been sent to me over the weekend:
“Hi Sarah, I just wanted to say thank you for a great day on Friday, weaving my first basket. I did indeed use it immediately to carry our food round to friends for supper and they were most impressed, especially when I said that 10 hrs earlier the basket had been a pile of willow whips on the floor ! I have started making another basket…” Jeff
“Thank you very much for yesterday’s basket-making day. I learned so much more yesterday about willow and understand the elements of the construction of baskets better and am grateful to see now how to do a handle (even though I had to dash off) .. I enjoyed the day too!” Jane
“Very pleased with my, already in use, basket made on Friday. Really pleased how strong and useful it is. Very enjoyable day.” Amanda
Another lovely attendee Tor, (pictured on the right of the photo carrying her free woven basket, along side Amanda on the left), was on an incredibly interesting mission. Tor is currently writing a book about taking slow adventures throughout the UK. As one of her 40 adventures, Tor decided to go see the starlings at dusk doing their winter murmerations up at Ham Wall and then the following day be taught how to make a free woven basket. Before our Sculpture Day I had explained to Tor how the movement of weaving willow, the arc and swoop of arm and withy can for me echo the swirling movement of murmerating starlings. That sometimes the movement of your arm when weaving can feel like a beating wing and how when bordering on baskets, teachers often talk about taking the willow rod and weaving it into the border in the shape of a bird’s wing. Tor’s book has been commissioned by the National Trust and will be published in 2020. I can’t wait to read it and to especially find out what Tor made of her willow weaving and starling adventure! Find out more about Tor and her truly interesting work at www.tormcintosh.com
Roll on more fantastic basket making days in 2019! Sarah X