Creative Crafts Skills Awards


Fantastic News – we have been shortlisted for the Creative and Cultural skills national Crafts Skills Awards in the category ‘Engaging new and diverse audiences in Craft Skills’.

This might sound like we are blowing our own trumpets but we thought you might like to know why! Here are some details from our application:

We are applying for this award as we are incredibly proud of our wide variety of educational, hands-on workshops and courses, teaching the art of willow weaving and basketmaking to adults and children. Our audience ranges from nursery school children, young offenders and residents of nursing homes to the general public. We have worked all over South Wales, and beyond, passing on our own skills to many thousands of adults and children. We are passionate about our work and absolutely committed to reaching as many people as possible to enable them to experience this incredibly rewarding and ancient craft. We provide high quality instruction through a variety of workshops and courses.

Willow Weaving Courses – Cover the history, cultivation and use of willow then hands-on to weave a specific item eg Willow Taster Courses and Garden Structures
Basketmaking Courses – 1 day, 2 day, 5 day Residential and Progressive Basketry Courses (3 innovative series of 6 courses offering structured progression of learning basketry skills.
Teacher’s Courses – Designed for school staff to take simple weaving projects back to the classroom eg Baskets and Crafts for the classroom and Sculpture for schools. Supported by full visual instruction pack
School Workshops – To train adults in situ and teach children a variety of willow weaving skills eg Christmas Decorations and Living Willow
Community Craft Workshops – Each participant is taught and gently supported on a one-to one basis, to weave a simple item, eg a willow heart
Talk and Weave Workshops – a slide show with examples of all our work and then instruction to weave a simple willow project, eg an oval shaped birdfeeder, achievable by everyone.
Event Workshops – mini ‘have a go’ workshops, small-scale projects such as willow star wands

Community workshop:show  IMG_0876  IMG_0445  Teachers course  IMG_0473

We encourage the highest of standards and always urge students to strive for excellence in their craft skills. Students are encouraged to take part in progressive basketry classes where we keep detailed records of learning so that we know which skills students have covered individually and then can advance their individual skills accordingly. Individual projects are evaluated at the end of each course and students given targets to improve on.

In 2007 we set up the Welsh Basketmakers South Wales group to ensure that students had support between courses to continue to practise what they had learned. This group, which we are still very active within, is now a thriving community co-operative with over 120 members. The group has recently won an award for their work with the judges quoting ‘I am delighted that the Welsh winner this year is Welsh Basketmakers South Wales Group. It is encouraging that in our modern world, with all its digital technology, there is not only a place for traditional arts and crafts, but that the achievements of the group have been recognized. Not only are they producing work of the highest quality, they are also ensuring that this ancient craft and artform continues, something that we should all celebrate.”

During our courses and workshops we teach skills needed to produce projects that are achievable in the time available. At a show or mini workshop we will teach participants to handle willow safely and learn a simple weave in order to produce an easy project such as a heart or birdfeeder. On longer courses students will learn specific skills to produce more complex items such as baskets or garden structures. We always stress the highly skilled nature of the craft and have high expectations of our students. Most people are extremely proud of their hand-produced items and eager to continue learning.

Since 2006 our one-day courses have provided 982 course places. 35 students have attended our Progressive courses. Our school workshops have reached approximately 5800 children. Our teacher’s courses and workshops have trained 1000 adults who work with children and young people in schools and in the community. We have worked with around 2500 adults and children at shows, most of whom have never experienced willow weaving before. Many show visitors attend courses after meeting us. We have worked with around 2400 adults and children during community workshops and talks.

Many students stress the therapeutic nature of our workshops saying they are relaxing, satisfying and absorbing. One student told us that the day she learned to make her first basket was the day she began to recover from a gruelling divorce.

These are 2 of our endorsements:

‘Clare and Mel have revived the craft throughout the area with their enthusiasm, hard work and commitment. I am particularly impressed with their “progressive” basketry courses and their work with children and schools’. Bob Summers, past chair of Oxfordshire Basketmakers.

‘They have worked tirelessly to generate an interest in the traditional craft of Basketmaking since setting up in 2006. Much of their work has been with children and in the Community. Their skill lies in transferring their acquired knowledge, with enthusiasm, to new people. There is a need to pass on these skills before they are lost.’ – EJ(Bunty) Ball, Vice President and Past Chairman 2008-2012, Basketmakers’ Association

Are we proud to be shortlisted?  You bet we are …..

12 thoughts on “Creative Crafts Skills Awards

  1. Well done Clare and Mel for getting on the shortlist for the Creative Skills Awards, you certainly deserve it and deserve to go all the way to the top!
    Welsh Basketmakers South Wales group has re-established a dynamic interest in the craft in the region and has introduced many children and adults to basketmaking.
    Best wishes
    Bob Summers
    for Oxfordshire Basketmakers

  2. How fantastic to go for this award! You really deserve it! I had a WONDERFUL day on the Fitching course (28 March). I learnt such a lot from a WONDERFUL teacher (Clare) who gave her all – and more – to each student. If only I lived in South Wales I would be attending every course! Evidence of the enthusiasm she has fostered was there in the huge variety of wonderful baskets made by Out to Learn Willow’s “regulars”.

    • Thanks so much Claire, that is really lovely of you. I really wish you had met Mel on the Fitching day (she was out slogging on yet another living willow project). We hope you can come on another course soon and experience her wonderful teaching too.

  3. I went along to the Cardiff RHS show in 2008 where Mel and Clare were encouraging the ‘audience’ to try to work with willow. i had been recently bereaved and took some encouragement to try my hand at a ‘snail’ . It was really enjoyable and I was of course hooked. I attended a number of wonderful courses and the following December I made a willow Christmas tree that I treasure. I subsequently progressed to my first basket making course . Each session was very satisfying as not only did we learn new techniques – we came away with a product, that had been made by using the techniques. The group of Welsh Basket makers are friendly and supportive and a pleasure to learn with. The improvement in skill level and confidence in using the various ‘weaves’ was remarkable. Photos of some of my favourite creations and some of the tools we learned how to use – are attached. I had great difficultly hanging on to others as friends and family ‘claimed’ their favourites.

  4. Congratulations Clare & Mel,

    I’m so pleased that your hard work and dedication is being recognised.

    As one of your pupils, you’ve turned a non arty, crafty me into a willow weaving addict, from that first garden sculpture, via round baskets, frame baskets, sunflowers & snails, you’ve given me the confidence to try something new.

    I’ve enjoyed inspirational teaching from 2 inspirational friends.
    With your encouragement and guidance you’ve given me the skills to make beautiful, useful things with willow. … and long may it continue.

    Thanks ladies, it’s been a joy xx

  5. I am totally in awe of your achievements. I too have been shortlisted for my willow classes, but in the ‘Encouraging Craft Skills in Informal Settings’ category. Great that basketmaking and willow weaving is being recognosed at last.

  6. Mel and Clare.
    Fantastic news you have been shortlisted – you surely deserve it with the amazing variety of people you work with and the different projects you get involved with, and all the hard work you do to help everyone enjoy making things with willow.
    Going on one of your courses is like having the perfect holiday: relaxing yet challenging, and all in lovely company, with added cake.
    All the best

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