Coffins, cyntells and courses – time flies when you are having fun!

It is ages since we seem to have had time to sit down and write our blog …………


September was very busy preparing for our first commercial coffin course to be taught by Roy Youdale from Bristol. It had actually taken more than a year to prepare for this course as we worked on a design which would be suitable to be taught over the course of a week which would give advanced basketmaker’s a chance to improve their overall skills and produce something quite beautiful.  We had a wonderful week with our course participants staying in a lovely local cottage with outstanding views of the cliffs of the beautiful Glamorgan Heritage Coast.

Reflecting on the progression of skills in basketmaking, most people start with a small round or frame basket worked with 4ft willow and then gradually build up over the months or years to working on larger more intricate projects with heavier willow. Our coffin course participants (all with a fair few baskets under their belts) worked with 6ft, 7ft and 8ft willow to produce intricate oval coffins with beautiful fastenings. They learned and practiced a whole range of weaves including 4 rod wale, plait borders, french randing over a very large area, fixings and fastenings and how to keep weaving straight and even. Working for five days solid is also a luxury for most people learning basketmaking these days and the sheer volume of weaving in a coffin allows you to get into a fluid repetitive rhythm and work on improving the evenness and neatness of your weaving.  The finished coffins were , quite simply, works of art.


Day two of our Cyntell course was a relaxing and enjoyable day with course participants travelling from as far as Oxford and Devon. The finished baskets were absolutely beautiful examples of traditional frame baskets which are made using the exact dimensions handed down from D J Davies to Les Llewelyn and Marvin Morgan. These two basketmakers are still making baskets for sale, Les also teaches from his home in Bridgend.


Progressive 1 saw a day learning techniques of making bowl shaped round baskets – the challenge is always to make sure the weaving is rapped down well and the bowl shap is even all round.  Some people learned how to weave a ‘German Wale’ which makes a lovely foot on the basket and gives an even join between the base and sides of the basket – as ever student’s found moving from sticky buff willow to waxy Dicky Meadows a big jump but a lovely selection of extremely different baskets were produced at the end of the day.

Progressive 2 learned fitching to make a wine basket.


Sculpture has been very popular this year and the course at the end of the month was busy with eleven participants making a fantastic variety of bird sculptures.  On the same day we were working with 25 people in Pontardawe to construct a sculpture of an owl in the Riverside park as well as a variety of smaller craft sculptures to take home.

Other September projects included the sculpture of a phoenix in Willows High School in Cardiff, garden work including a woven rose arch, a Crown and Wand workshop for 90 Teddys and their mini owners at their Teddy Bear’s picnic –  a fast and furious hour and a half  – and a teacher’s Environmental Art course for Swansea and Neath Port Talbot where the favourite activity was – of course – willow weaving!


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