Until yesterday, gardening has been next-to-impossible this week: terrible, terrible weather. And the bonkers bamboos stayed in place throughout the storms, but I’m afraid my irises suffered.
I’m also rushed off my feet with a writing deadline, but I managed to fit in something wonderful – a willow basket workshop with Rowenna from Wild Art Wales. She had the stall next to mine at the big Harlech Christmas Craft Fair (I just loved her work, do check it out), and several of us asked her to lead a workshop. So, though it wasn’t strictly speaking gardening, I was at least working with stuff that had been growing. And soaking for six days.
I’ve never done this before, and now I’m hooked, even though I had my doubts when I produced an amazingly wobbly base:
It looked a bit better once I’d got all the sides in place, and once I moved it. I had to put it on the floor because I kept poking other people as I turned it round. This revealed that I really should have paid more attention to spacing out my straight base bars (note the grasp of technical language, ahem, ahem). Not exactly even.
Fortunately we were in a large space and, despite there being twelve of us, nobody got injured. One thing I did discover was just how blunt my lovely Felco secateurs have become. Maybe it’s sap, maybe I can sharpen them up myself – or or maybe I’ll have to send them away for maintenance. I do hope not!
We then pulled up our sides to give us a basis for weaving. I rather liked it at this stage (but then I had a feeling that I knew what my weaving was going to be like: not thrilling).
So I took pictures of some of the others weaving… especially as a few people had done a bit of basketry before.
One person had made about ten baskets in the past, and apparently the saying is that you need to make ten to find your way. Another is a weaver, though not usually in willow.
By the end of the workshop, we all had finished baskets, and they all looked wonderful, even mine with its dodgy weaving. It suddenly improved once I started to make the edge, and all the pressure had flattened the base out.
I know that I can do better (my stupid thumb injury didn’t help) and I wish I’d thought more about colour and materials, and perhaps used some of the amazingly coloured dogwood that Rowenna had brought. Black, red or lime green would have been an interesting addition, but it felt rather hard to work with – it’s right at the end of its season of suitability for basket making – and I didn’t think my hand could stand it. In the end I was quite pleased, and now I keep picking my basket up and looking at it. Of course I see lots of faults (craftspeople are always hypercritical), but I want to do more. Lots more.
(The offcuts in the middle are going to be turned into willow charcoal in the next bonfire by ‘cooking’ them in a tin with holes in it.)
I’ve now started looking around the garden with a speculative eye, winding things round my wrist to see if they might work… It’s such a shame you can’t use bracken. I’ve got plenty of that going!