Willow Days, Courses & Basketmaking Update - 5th May

Willow Days, Courses & Basketmaking Update – 5th May


I want to give you an update about my Willow Days and other future basket making workshops.

I usually teach 4 days a month at Coates English Willow on the Somerset Levels but in March I postponed my April – June 2020 Willow Basket and Animal Sculpture Days until the Autumn.  Firstly, if you were booked onto one of these dates I haven’t forgotten you!  I’ve now pinned down the September – October dates that I am hoping to postpone our Willow Days to, but have made the decision to await government guidelines as to how the lockdown will be eased and how, more specifically I will be able to teach you all both safely and legally, before getting back in contact with you via email.  This is because I need as much as I possibly can do to get our postponed dates right and not create any confusion.  In addition, I’m still awaiting further government guidance before a decision is made as to my July Willow day dates.

My RHS Rosemoor workshops in North Devon this Spring were understandably cancelled but I’ve now finalised new dates, these are as follows: Willow Trug – Friday 11th September; Willow Zarzo Basket – Friday 30th October & Saturday 31st October.  Head to www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/rosemoor and click on the ‘Whats On’ tab for more details.  (You will have to scroll on down through all the cancelled events but I promise you that my workshops are on there along with booking information!)

I will also be teaching my basketmaking workshop at River Cottage in Dorset on Monday 21st September, (for which there are now only 2 places still available – please click on the River Cottage link above), and a beginners round willow basketmaking workshop at the Somerset Rural Life Museum on Saturday 3rd October.

Meanwhile I’m continuing to home school 2 children, making baskets when I can, and very much hoping that I will be eligible and able to receive the government’s self-employment income grant.  I have had previous students and lots of lovely people advise me to teach my workshops online, which I have looked into, but have come to the conclusion that alongside home schooling and my still being in recovery health wise, I know that this isn’t the best option for me at the moment.  Anyway, I need to be bouncing around by the Autumn so that I can teach you to the very best of my ability!

If you do have some willow available to you and are experiencing twitchy fingers, there are springing up a number of online tutorials. Also, a good leaflet explaining how to create a simple catalan platter – ideal for beginner basketmakers can be found at www.countrysideclassroom.org.uk/resources/669  If you haven’t already found them, the two books that I believe offer the best willow projects for both beginners and those with some willow weaving experience are Jenny Crisp’s ‘Willow’ and Jo Hammond’s ‘Willow Basketry And Sculpture’.  Both books can be found through online sellers.

If you have the willow books or an online tutorial ready, but no willow, please do head to www.coatesenglishwillow.co.uk where you can purchase willow on their ‘products’ page.  Whilst you are there you are also more than welcome to buy a traditional English willow basket or two.

Through this pandemic we need to keep our commercial and non commercial willow basketmakers making a living.  I believe that it would be incredibly detrimental to the craft form that I love, to our English heritage and of course to basketmaking itself, not only for our generation but for future generations to come, if we choose now to loose such incredibly skilled basketmakers, willow growers and their knowledge.

Whilst completing a survey for the Heritage Craft Association this afternoon on the impact of Covid-19 I wrote the following, “I really do believe that once this pandemic is over the craft uprising that was already blazing is going to explode into an incredible demand and value for the learning of our heritage craft skills and for our work. Out of such an uncertain time I do believe that this will create in so many different ways a great beneficial force for us all and our planet! It’s just so important that until this future happens we are able to retain and grow the incredible heritage craft people that exist in the UK.”

Support is greatly appreciated and on a personal note, I do truly look forward to teaching my postponed Willow Day dates and new willow workshops in the Autumn.  Meanwhile I really hope that you and your families are keeping well.

Thank you, Sarah X

p.s. The featured photo was sent to me by Morag, who was along with her daughter due to be making a Zarzo basket with me this April.  A couple of years ago Morag made the Willow Flower Lantern with me and it has since lit up her garden.  On our April date Morag sent me a lovely supportive email along with the photo to cheer me up – it did just that!