Building the Willow Craft Community: Skills Sessions in May

In May we held basketry skills sessions on Mansel Green next to the newly planted willow bed which in November we will harvest. In the mean time we have bought materials from a commercial grower in Somerset to supply the project.

The plan is to introduce and teach willow weaving skills to any person or group who is interested in learning and may have an interest in helping to harvest and teach others. I have found the best way to develop your own skills is to pass them on.

Nicole and Shan attended 3 sessions, Nicole has built up her skills in a number of classes and has decided basketry is something she enjoys and is good at but needs the discipline of a class to focus on practice time.

Working in a group is an ideal way to do this, as others motivate and help you overcome your own inner tyrant who is over critical. Others seem to love our work better than our selves, because we see all the faults and they see all the beauty!

Nicole completed a Finnish bilberry basket, a small berry picker traditionally made by nuns to collect bilberries and the like. Small, built by using scalloms around a hoop, the base uses side stakes woven backwards and forwards to form the base. It is a perfect forage basket for a child.

Shan is a beginner who was eager to learn and prepared to listen intently which always helps when learning new skills. She decided to make a round cauldron shaped shopper. An interesting first project which included learning pairing, waling, French randing, slewing and a 4 behind 1 rod border. As well as how to fit and wrap a handle bow.

Students often wonder why they are exhausted after a day’s basketry, the brain when learning new things has to build new neural pathways and this takes energy. A process which is also incredibly good for your health and wellbeing.

On the second Friday we were  visited by the Swansea Women’s group and their children who brought their own film crew (two capable ladies) to film Saba, who organises the group. She is in the running for a reward from Chwarae Teg for all her hard work organising events. Fingers crossed for Saba.

The women made Catalan platters, spiral bird feeders, and a garden trug. We hope to invite them back again as they enjoyed themselves. The children were very well behaved and interested in just being on the green. One of the little philosophers wrote a message on the blackboard we should all heed.

The following Friday we invited the Murton Youth group to attend. Andrew Walker brought six children to have a talk about the project and to do something practical. In less than two hours we had an interactive talk about climate change, using the Schlesinger graph, and relating climate changing timescales to the age of an Oak tree (it can live for over 500 years if it is lucky). We showed them a coppiced Hazel and a pollarded Willow, an efficient form of management which prolongs the life of the tree and produces harvestable materials and finally the willow bed.

Each form of management produces local materials in the short term: annually coppiced basketry Willow, medium term: coppiced Hazel every 7 years and the long term: pollarded Hornbeam, every 10-20 years.

The children had time to make a small willow item for the garden; their more ambitious ideas would have to wait for another visit. It ended with sharing a home-made sponge which was lovely. We hope to welcome them back again in the coming weeks and months.

We will be organising another skills session on Saturday June 29th. If you are part of a community group or individual interested in an introductory skills session please get in touch.

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