#MarchMeetTheMaker Instagram Posts – Week 2.
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
Day 8: Work in Progress #meetthemaker Yes it’s the white willow speaker covers for the rear of my campervan…
I’m sure I’m meant to be showcasing some highly technical feat of willow basketmaking but actually today was a day to begin, make and finish a couple of bespoke small willow pieces and have butterflies in my stomach. My youngest finally returned to school and I ended up on tender-hooks with the bizarre feeling that at any moment she just might be sent straight back home, resulting in me loosing the plot!
Actually, thinking about it, this is pretty high tech, (well the willow is holding the tech), and I did have to use Year 5 Pythagorean theorem to get the 45 degree speaker angle….
Day 9: Learning Curve #marchmeetthemaker I believe that to be a true craftsperson is to always strive to advance our knowledge and skill, we are simultaneously on many learning curves, we choose a ‘learning life’!
This chair shows my first attempt at rush seating. Having alongside fellow weavers from the Basketmakers’ Association harvested my own rush material in Somerset in June, last Autumn I asked my mum to teach me rush seating.
Perhaps chair seating is in my blood.
My mum, a chair seater herself, had me undertaking cane seat commissions as a teenager and more recently I’ve fallen in love with whole willow seating Arts & Crafts chairs. So perhaps it was natural to turn to rush and to my growing collection of battered antique chairs…
Found in bits in a junk shop for £10, I sensed this chair was special. Ebonised and delicate with original scraps of a very finely woven rush seat. A lovely old Somerset furniture restorer pieced the chair back together and then I became my mum’s student again (30 years on from the last time!)
With hindsight I can see the resulting chair seat shows that I was trying to “run before I could walk” (as my mum rightfully told me even before I’d begun!) My wrapped coils of rush do need to be more even and a little finer. But I’m so glad it was my 70 year old mum who taught me, who was beside me as I started this rush seating journey. Because of this my rush chair will always remain with me.
Furthermore, I have since found out that this chair was most likely designed by E W Godwin, one of my favourite, and one of the most important Art & Crafts designers. It’s probably one of his most simplest furniture designs, but just to be able to own and cherish one of his pieces back into life is a joy!
Day 10. Small Detail #meetthemaker
It’s often the small, considered details that shine a light on the quality of a basket, shine a light on the care given by the basketmaker. Hopefully this makes you, (sometimes without full understanding of why), say “Yes! That basket needs to come and live with me”.
Designed and made for PerfumerH last Christmas, we concentrated on getting the detail just right, blunt corners, (a traditional Somerset way of making them on Squarework baskets), Somerset Willow that was steamed lightly in places to create a visual texture and on touch, a more silky feel. (I also prototyped this hamper in white – which again gives a different feel). Finally a simple, elegant latch held by a twisted rope fastener.
I’ll stop now waxing lyrical, but I just wanted you to know, a lot of thought goes into a handmade bespoke basket.
Day 11: Self Portrait #marchmeetthemaker This is me last Friday out on the moor on the Somerset Levels, harvesting willow and happy.
It’s a combination of things, that were making me happy, very important things.
I’m cutting beautiful willow, (albeit in pretty inappropriate clothing – why ever not?!) on a bright but very cold early Spring afternoon.
It’s because I’m feeling relief, there’s potentially a path forward out of lockdown, one which will enable me to fully make, teach and undertake training again.
It’s because I’m happy I now don’t feel so alone with my work. It’s a pretty lonely life being, and then knowing you’re striving to be, in a workshop on your own. After a year, the strangest of years, I’ve returned to a Coates English Willow withy bed. Somehow this makes me feel more back in their fold and I’m thankful.
Recently I’ve begun a brilliant business development programme run by Cockpit Arts in London, tailored specifically to basketmakers and being paid for by the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers. I’m incredibly grateful for their expert advice and loving being a part of brilliant daily discussions that our amazing group of UK basketmakers are having.
But what also made me happy and at the time more hopeful, is that I wasn’t by myself on the moor. For the first time ever I was cutting willow alongside someone, someone who wanted to see into my world, and I’d allowed this, and it had taken so much to allow this, and I was smiling back at him.
Day 12: In Use #marchmeetthemaker My first thought was to just show you my much loved tool basket, but then I thought about the past year, how due to the pandemic I’ve only been able to teach for 2 months. When I did, I carried an extra tool basket, full of sanitiser, masks, gloves and detergent.
For those craft teachers like myself who rely income wise on teaching to survive, it’s been a really tough year. Yes it was more difficult to teach with social distancing et all, but I managed it and because both the students and I knew it was an even more precious time, it spurred us all on and amazing willow baskets were made.
As the pandemic progressed, I ended up postponing so many workshops time and time again. Yet very few of my students requested refunds. I realised that this was mostly because they just want to know that one day they will be at one of my Willow Day workshops. Something special to look forward to.
I truly believe that once this pandemic is over there will be an even greater demand for craft teaching. The need to make, create and look after our well being. Basket making is perfect for this.
A natural material roots us back to nature, and when making baskets, exploration and repetition enables us to be in the present. Through the many workshops I’ve taught, I’ve seen magic happen and transformation.
In the act of weaving willow, what I believe we’re doing is connecting back into ourselves, to a place that can be calm, can be transformative and is restorative. Some students may gain just a brief glimpse of this, but for others it can be life changing.
Just ask a basketmaker why they are so passionate about their craft, and many will give this reply, not just about their students, but about their own experience too, it was and is for us life changing.
Latest info about my Willow Day workshops can be found at www.sarahlebreton.co.uk/courses
Day 13 & 14 Weekend: These days have no theme, it’s optional to post!