#MarchMeetTheMaker Instagram Posts
Taking part in the popular #MarchMeetTheMaker on Instagram, I’ve decided to create a weekly news update that contains these daily posts. Here you can find out more about my creative business, the commissions that I undertake and the life I lead. Enjoy! Sarah X
#MarchMeetTheMaker2021 Instagram. In week size chunks I thought you may also like an insight into my practice and my life…
Day 1 Introduction: It’s #MarchMeetTheMaker time, a month that will enable me (and challenge me!) to tell you in daily nutshells about my creative business; who I am, what I make, what I’m creating and why. Today’s introduction day – so for those of you who are yet to know me…
Hi I’m Sarah! Living in beautiful Devon, in South West England, I make willow and rush baskets, lighting and willow seated furniture.
I often harvest the materials myself, all from my local Somerset Levels.
This is also where I mainly teach my ‘Willow Days’, basket and sculpture workshops that I have created in the heart of the UK’s commercial willow growing and basketmaking region.
Not only is each handwoven piece created by myself, but I craft with flair and with a mighty passion for this wonderful heritage craft form. You can find my baskets, lighting, furniture, courses and latest news at www.sarahlebreton.co.uk
Day 2 Style: What I strive to do, when making baskets, lampshades or seated furniture, is to create pieces that I simply love. I make objects that I wish to live with and that make me smile everyday. Of course each piece has to marry it’s function with beauty and be highly crafted using traditional English techniques. Moreover it needs to be made with natural white willow, which I adore, or satisfy my growing rush weaving addiction.
Oh good grief! Already I’m starting to sound like I’ve fallen out of a Sunday newspaper supplement. Better then reach for those glossy images… My Style – 1st & 2nd photos: It’s this beautiful, honest, original Ernest Gimson Arts & Crafts chair that I’ve reseated in white willow, resting in the corner of my room against bright 1940’s Josef Frank wallpaper.
My Style – 3rd & 4th photos: It’s my willow backpack, modelled on a 1930’s bottle basket, cinched in at the waist for a more corset like form and then updated with a rush lid. It seemed to belong nestled between moss covered rocks on a Highland loch shore…
Day 3. Beliefs & Values: It’s a basket – just a willow shopping basket, has been made for hundreds of years. Yes nicely crafted, perfect size, handmade with local willow by a local craftsperson. (Reminds me a bit of a basket my granny once had).
So what would you pay for it? £45, £55 perhaps even £60?
I’m grateful, you like my basket! If I’m very lucky I’ve earned £60 for 6 hours work…
Sustainable craft? The material is sustainable, but making heritage baskets, traditional baskets; very few UK basketmakers can do this and make a sustainable living.
There are now perhaps a few dozen basketmakers left in the UK who can make, or choose to make a basket such as this one. It’s called a Squarework Stake and Strand basket. Not for beginners, you’d have to have put in the hours, an awful lot of hours mastering round and oval willow baskets first then progress onto Square work. This basket is made using advanced English techniques, there are methods in the making that are even local to where I live.
Most UK basketmakers who do make a basket like this use French techniques, less strenuous, but less our heritage. The very few UK teachers will most likely teach you the French method. (It is usually only the few remaining UK commercial basketmakers, or those of us who’ve been taught by commercial makers who carry forward the English techniques). With each generation, as less of us gain the skills and methods, learn these English techniques, our knowledge and our skill set becomes diluted.
So what should you be paying for my willow shopping basket? In an exhibition, on a pedestal for £300, would you buy it? Do I want to help save my heritage craft form through such exclusivity? No. I want you to use this basket, swing it on your arm with pride.
But now you’ve found out, unless us basketmakers value ourselves and what we make more, unless you pay more, one day soon there won’t be English heritage baskets.
Day 4: On your desk.
I can’t find my desk! Can anybody see it out here on the withy bed?
The light level is dimming, my fingers are going numb, it must be around 4 degrees, I’m a little bit exhausted but so happy, murmurations of starlings keep flying low over my head (I love their wing song) and I’m harvesting willow!
I’m so lucky that Jonathan and Nicola Coate let me cut a little willow for my teaching at Coates English Willow on the Somerset Levels.
I have never been able to afford the time or the land to grow my own willow. It’s a whole other incredible part of the basketmaking process which requires toil and stealth.
Earlier this afternoon I walked over the moor to see the Coates old boys using the mechanical cutting machine – this is as sophisticated as commercial willow harvesting gets and it’s a joy to watch (check out the clip!)
Day 5: Newest Make.
Hats off to each and every basketmaker who has through the last year been able to make willow baskets whilst simultaneously homeschooling multiple children through endless lockdowns. My many willow basket attempts mostly ended in failure or borderline child neglect…
But working with rush material, easier to prepare, less smacking dirt over the small dining room walls, the ability to pause and pause yet again my weaving, (whilst crying inside trying to understand year 5 numeracy questions), well I just about managed it!
So in this last lockdown, when my youngest turned into a primary gremlin and my oldest a teenage vampire, I sought salvation in making small quirky rush pieces for the interior refurbishment of my T2 New Bay VW campervan.
Realisation dawned that my van-ity project is now my sanity project and that a rush coffee cup holder complete with fold down sat nav pocket or a need for matching rush sunshades is entirely normal…
Day 6 & 7 Weekend: These days have no theme, it’s optional to post!