Crickhowell and Perthcelyn Primary Schools Scenic Willow

We had a fantastic week last week, if a bit hectic, working at 2 lovely schools with the most wonderful bunch of children.  Both schools were surrounded by the most beautiful views in two very different valleys …..

At Crickhowell we worked in 3 different areas to provide shade and shelter and play structures for both Junior and Infant children. The juniors wanted a dome with a wiggly tunnel exactly opposite their exit from the school, the infants fancied 3 wigwams to fit in their physical play area for ‘dens’ and we also built 2 arbours. On Day 1 we enjoyed soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the awesome views of the mountains surrounding the school, on Day 2 the torrential rain meant we couldn’t even see the mountains! We were joined by very keen parents who didn’t mind a total drenching to help us finish the project. I was the lucky one who worked with the infant children making willow crowns and magic wands while Mel got soaked to the skin!

After finishing at 3.30 we then went on to construct a beautiful arbour in a private garden in Abergavenny. The arbour was built to frame a 9ft ship’s bench and to our delight also echoed the shape of the mountain behind. No photos as we finished in the dark!

Thursday and Friday were spent at Perthcelyn Primary School, another stunning location looking out over the valley formed by the Taff to the mountains to the East. Another playground location to stand and stare (on Day 1 anyway, no sign of any mountains again on Day 2 in the thick drizzle), although there was a little too much work ahead to do too much of that.

Luckily we were incredibly ably assisted by the older children at Perthcelyn, especially Ryan and Niamh who became our willing apprentices for the 2 days. We have NEVER come across a pair of such confident, dedicated, skilled children – so much so that we handed over our hoodies and both became official staff members! The rest of the team were also superb and we made great progress with the tunnels, arbours and wigwams which were on order for this school. I am very envious that Mel has got another opportunity to go back to this lovely school for Day 3!

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The Cyntell – Traditional Welsh Basket

The Cyntell is the traditional Welsh framed farm basket which was used for many agricultural purposes.   Les Llewellyn, who was himself taught by the late DJ Davies, has taught several members of our group the method of making these baskets, we are now confident that our heritage will not be lost!

The frame for the Cyntell is made from very stout hazel or willow which is harvested in the winter months and wrapped round a circular forma – made from MDF or an old bicycle wheel – and left for several months to dry naturally.  The baskets range between 18 and 22 inches in diameter and were originally designed to fit into each other for storage when the baskets were not being used.  The size of the basket is determined by the diameter of the hoop.  The Cyntell basket also has ribs which are shaved from willow and also dried around formas.  Les has provided us with a set of formas which are exactly the dimensions which DJ Davies originally used.  The ribs are made by splitting very stout willow in half using a knife or two thumbs.  The ribs are then shaped by shaving the sharp edges off to form an oval which will not skin the weaving willow as it passes over the ribs.  The ideal shape is an almond ‘eye’ shape with no sharp edges.  It takes a lot of practice to achieve this!

Once the hoop has dried it is joined by cutting two slypes  that fit snugly together and then wood glue is used to ensure a really strong frame.  4 ribs are then attached to the hoop with 4ft willow which is firstly criss crossed and then simply woven in and out.  The willow is always joined in with butt first – the butt resting along the rib which is closest to the hoop.  It is very important that the butts are trimmed neatly and in line with the rib.  New ribs are added in as soon as a pocket has been formed by the weaving.

Les is a fantastic teacher and so generous with his help. We have arranged a course for budding Cyntell makers – this consists of one day in March making frames (19th) and the second day, in September (17th) weaving the Cyntell.  There is one place left on this course – if you would like to attend please contact us asap by e-mail and return the booking form found at http://www.outtolearnwillow.co.uk/howtobookacourse.html

Welsh Basketmakers South Wales Group – January Meeting

A massive thanks to Deb for taking notes, typing them up and sending them to me in an e-mail  – a lot harder  to lose than an envelope, although I promise I still have this month’s safe!  We had a great meeting with more than 20 people attending to agree the programme for this year and weave some beautiful willow hearts from fresh Black Maul and Flanders Red willow.  Yvonne brought some gorgeous organic willow for our basketmakers to pounce on.  Anyway, here is the programme for this year, expect there will be changes on the way but it will be a more relaxing way to do things I think.  Again thanks to everyone for offering to help.

Dates and Activities for 2011

The Group agreed a list of activities for the forthcoming year and agreed dates for the monthly meeting.

N.B  Unless otherwise stated we are hoping that all meetings will be held at Colwinston Village hall – fab venue with easily sweepable floors and loads of car parking.  One summer meeting will be held at Kathy’s house in Cardiff Bay – to be confirmed.

January 31st Fresh Willow Hearts 7.00 – 9.00 pm
February 28th Hoops for frame baskets – Knife skills and using skeins   Material costs £1 per frame 7.00 – 9.00 pm
March 28th Weaving Materials from the Hedgerows At Pencoed Organics 

Final details to be agreed.  The main aim of the meeting will be to improve material recognition and identifying the most useful hedgerow materials for weaving

7.00 – 9.00 pm
April (actual date Tues, May 3rd) Bases – practice your round, oval or square bases for finishing baskets at home. 

Material Costs – £1 per base

7.00 – 9.00 pm
May (actual date Mon, June 6th) Plant supports 

Material Costs – £5 per plant support

7.00 – 9.00 pm
June 27th Borders 7.00 – 9.00 pm
July and Aug No monthly meetings due to summer holidays, however there will be a picnic at Dunraven – date to be arranged 

 

Sept 26th Corn dollies – weave your own dragonfly, bodkin cover or anything else made using a corn dolly weave 7.00 – 9.00 pm
October 31st Angels and trees – 3 dimensional tree or angel from white or buff willow 7.00 – 9.00 pm
November 28th Christmas party 7.00 – 9.00 pm
December No monthly meeting

Getting Organised

At the first group meeting, we decided to keep things informal.  However as things have progressed and as the group has increased in numbers, there is the need to formalise a few things to ensure the smooth running of the group.  At the moment we need help with refreshment rotas, keeping notes of the meeting and collecting funds.  Details are as follows:-

Refreshment rotas

We agreed to have a rota for providing refreshments – tea, coffee and biscuits/cake.  We will arrange the rota at every meeting and pass on the tea/coffee making equipment to those next on the rota for the following month.  Kathy agreed to sort out February (with Ann to help although she doesn’t know yet!)

Keeping Notes

We have agreed to keep a few notes from each meeting particularly where we have agreed actions.  These will then be posted on our blog.

Funds

There is a minimum charge of £2.50 at each meeting for the cost of the hall and materials.  Sarah kindly undertook this at the January meeting and has agreed to carry on doing this for future meetings.

Basket making and other willow events

Wool and Willow Festival 2011 – Llanidloes  (http://www.woolandwillowfestival.org/)

Dates for this year’s festival are 28th May to 25th June.  Set up is on Friday 27th May.

Out to Learn Willow are running a workshop making Framed Baskets for the garden or kitchen on 17th June

Prue Thimbleby will be running a workshop for willow and recycled materials on 3rd June.

We also have a stall for exhibiting our work – this is for everyone and Maggie will be in touch with further details shortly.  If anyone is interested in selling any of their work then contact Clare and Mel as we also have a table for selling willow items.

Basket makers Association Summer Meeting – Cheltenham  17th June 2011

We agreed that we would like to attend the AGM and it would be sensible to organise a minibus for a number of us to attend.  Unfortunately it clashes with Clare and Mel teaching and stewarding at the Wool and Willow Festival but other group members may well fancy a day out

Deb will be in touch to organise numbers and minibus hire.

Next meeting

28th February 2011, 7.00 p.m.  Colwinston Village Hall (to be confirmed when booked)

Looking forward to seeing you all again next month, if you have a sharp knife such as an Opinel knife or fixed blade penknife please bring it with you along with a piece of leather or suede to protect your knee!