I've been honing my willow weaving skills today.
I love basketry; it really does (usually) bring joy to my soul. Something about the natural materials and the way they react to the bending and tugging, the uniqueness of the finished product, the tiredness and the smell of willow on your hands... I'm hoping to make a little bit of a career at it in a few months, at least pocket money, but I'm out of practice.
I started with a gypsy basket course run by the lovely Jo at Abundant Earth near Durham (http://www.abundantearth.coop) and I've recently made a round basket at the Wild Harvest School of Self Reliance (http://wildharvest.org) just outside York, with equally lovely Di. I have a 'Modern Basketry from the Start' book (from 1973!) to guide me and of course YouTube should I need.
So I put a bundle of 4ft willow in the pond, weighted with rope and dumbbells, last weekend and fished it out 4 days later, left it to mellow in an old towel and tarp for another 3 days and set out this morning to practice, secateurs in hand.
But it wasn't good. The willow was brittle in places, almost rotten in others (with a delightful addition if some kind of maggoty creatures!) and impossible to work with, snapping endlessly. And too uniform, with too few thick rods for the structure and too few thin rods for the weave, pulling it out of shape. I had soaked and then redried it last year but something had obviously gone wrong along the way.
I managed to fumble and swear and tantrum through one very poor example and gave up before the next went beyond its base.
So back to the drawing board, or more specifically to Somerset Willow Growers for fresh bundles!
In the meantime I consoled myself with the little nugget from the glossary of Modern Basketry and pondering over why my home town, normally associated with heavy industry is used as a term for 7ft willow rods! Fate intervening maybe? And the pile of kindling we will have ready for next year's fires.
And above, my favourite of all my made baskets and proof that with the right materials, I'm not the worst basketmaker in the world! Onwards and upwards eh?
Treading Lightly is simple living, within your means and the means of the planet, and making a minimal impact on the Earth. Find out more here about Catherine, of Barefoot Solutions, does this from day to day.