Awwww, how cute we said after the first few goes of making a 10cm diameter frame basket, this is a bit tedious after the 20th, please no more after the 30th and still only half way there…
…needless to say we were pretty sick of the sight of them by the end.
These 60 (yes 60) little frame baskets were made for the Forestry Commission for children to use for gathering leaves for a Forest School activity. What a lovely idea 🙂
AUGUST – Willow Storytelling tree, Roman Military Spectacular (just look at those Gladiators) the Eisteddfod and the Vale Show
Nearly up to date – August was quite a busy month as well with The Eisteddfod and the Vale Show. We had a rather fetching teepee at the Eisteddfod and spent a very relaxing week on the Maes Gwyrdd. Les Llewelyn, our famous Cyntell maker demonstrated for two days making a beautiful white cyntell.
What better than willow swords and shields for a Roman Military Spectacular at the Amphitheatre in Caerleon. The event lasted for two days and we were treated with fantastic Roman Soldier battles and sparring Gladiators.
Another lovely project was a sculpture of a Storytelling Tree in Dare Valley Country Park. Spread over three days the workshop was for local children who either worked on the tree or made leaves which we attached at the end.
Finally the Vale Show which is an agricultural show held in Fonmon Castle in Barry, another event we’ve attended for quite a few year’s running. Always a very busy day which this year was made joyful by the return of someone very special… 🙂
JUNE – the Olympic cows (yes cows), more baskets, sunflowers, Wool & Willow festival, BA Summer meeting, exhibiting at St Clears, making a giant willow boar, Open Farm Sunday, Willow Bark with Terry the Weaver and Tuppence the willow weaving Terrier – a very busy month!
June kicked off with a lovely project at a Special Arts School in Northampton where we were asked to make a sculpture of a willow cow to celebrate the Olympics… It was a blistering hot but lovely day and we ended up with one finished cow and another well on it’s way made entirely by the children. The cows had to be small enough for them to be carried in a parade.
We also run willow courses for the National Botanic Garden of Wales and this month was lovely Sunflowers and Basket Making for Beginners.
June is the month for the Wool and Willow Festival in Llanidloes held in the Minerva Arts Centre. The exhibition runs for the whole month of June and is a lovely showcase for local crafts. There are lots of workshops that run alongside the exhibition, ours was the Willow Frame Baskets and we were lucky enough to have our first willow weaving dog attend, Terrence the rather fetching Terrior.
At the end of the month we took part in the Big Basketry Gathering which included the BA Summer meeting held at the National Botanic Garden and the week prior to that several welsh basket makers got together to help willow artist Michelle Cain make a giant willow boar which stands about 16 foot tall at the gardens. The gathering ended with some lovely workshops, Coracle making, the Tea Things basket run by Helen Campbell and a really interesting Willow Bark course by Terry Dunne.
The workshops were both really interesting, Helen Campbell showed us how to make a traditional Welsh Tea Things basket and Terry Dunne showed us how to harvest bark from two year old willow rods then make beautiful things out of it, yet another use for willow!
JULY – thankfully a lot calmer with some lovely egg collecting baskets
How time flies, can’t quite believe it’s six months since we last posted. So here’s a quick update on what willowing activities have come our way since March 2012.
APRIL – Willow Crafts for the Garden, Beginners Baskets and the wonderful RHS Show
With the living willow season finished it was straight into the willow craft season which included the RHS Show in Cardiff and lots of willow courses. Willow Crafts for the Garden is always popular and although every time we say remember the size of the car you came in, quite often this happens.
Beginners basket making are also very popular and we had some lovely baskets made in April at the Heritage Coast Centre in Southerndown. We even had two lovely ladies fly all the way from America. Back to the wheelie bin for soaking though.
We’ve been lucky enough to have a stand at The RHS Spring Show in Cardiff for the last four years and although a tiring three days, it’s always a lot of fun. This year the weather wasn’t so kind and it ended up a bit like Glastonbury outside our marquee. Many thanks to all our helpers, especially Sarah who stuck it out for the three days and most importantly helping to take the stand down, something not easily forgotten 🙂 We also made a willow badger for the Wildlife Trust Garden so it seemed as if we were living on the show ground for about a week.
MAY – Willow Sculpture course, Forest School sessions and Jubilee Crown
Four herons and a dolphin were made on our sculpture course, how amazing are they!
Forest School sessions started again, one afternoon a week for ten weeks taking a group of ten and eleven year olds to experience the outdoors and learn about their environment and to have fun of course. Some lovely tree art went on in the first session, sadly rained every single Thursday afternoon for ten weeks!
We were also asked to make a replica of the Queen’s Coronation Crown for the Physic Garden in Cowbridge to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee.
Round shoppers, gypsies and sculpture
We’ve had a lovely six courses teaching the Vale Adult Learners beginners basket making and they’ve made great progress along with some fantastic baskets.
The last course was in February and completed the two day round shopper course but there was also some time for finishing off the Gypsy baskets and in Nina’s case making a willow sculpture!
Everyone brought their half finished baskets back soaked and ready to go and before long were filling in the sides with a variety of weaving strokes. Nina managed to fit in a sculpture and a few others finished off their gypsy baskets while they were waiting for the stakes to be soaked enough for borders. Rather relieved to see the frogs hadn’t started spawning so we could use the local soaking tank.
Oval shoppers day one
Meanwhile the inters were embarking on the first day of the Oval Shopper course at the Heritage Coast Centre in Southerndown.
It was a fantastic day in February and we were able to work outside, spread out along the picnic tables and very little to clean up at the end.
A few brave people opted for black maul side stakes and so had to finish their borders at home but most will be finishing next time. Really nice variety of shapes and sizes and Diane and Mary had a go at packing up the sides. Looking forward to day two.
I must admit we were slightly dreading the thought of weaving willow hurdles with children on a bitterly cold day in early February so we put it off till the next day which thankfully turned out relatively sunny and springlike.
Luckily we had a nice stock of golden willow so we were able to add some colour to these panels which are going to used as screening in a nursery.
The children quickly got into the swing of things as they wove the willow in and out of the uprights to the chant of ‘to me, to you’.
Vale Adult Learners took on the Gypsy Basket challenge last month and after a fair amount of sighing, the odd curse or two and cries of please no more packing, beautiful shaped baskets unfolded.
Welsh Shoppers round two
The second day of the welsh shopper course took place last month. It was a pretty cold day and once again we were all huddled around the fire at the Heritage Coast Centre. With hoops, handles and ribs all dried out it was a day of weaving the basket. It’s quite a tricky basket if you keep the traditional weave going and try and shape the basket at the same time. Also helps if you’re told how to start the basket off properly in the first place, I blame brain freeze…
A day at Slade in Southerndown
A lovely sunny Monday was the perfect day for a spot of maintenance and Slade House in Southerndown was the perfect spot for it. Walking down through the stunningly beautiful snowdrops and the purple crocus just about to burst open, was enough to lift anybody’s spirits. With the help of Mark the gardener we soon got to work and in no time at all we’d completed the beautiful willow arbour that sits at the bottom of the garden.
Next was the willow entranceway with a run of fedge either side of a short tunnel. The willow had thickened up nicely so we were able to create a roll top for the fedge and the tunnel had lots of small branches which we wove in. The result was very pleasing.
We finished off with the four way arch which had grown so well that we were able to create a canopy of woven willow that come spring time will burst into leaf and be a lovely source of shade for summer.
Set in six acres, Slade garden is an unexpected gem with masses of spring flowers. The terraced lawns, mature specimen trees, living willow arbours, rose and clematis pergola, orchard and herbaceous borders, create a very natural garden that also has extensive views over the Bristol Channel. The garden is open under the National Garden Scheme on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 April this year and is well worth a visit.
I’m swapping my day’s work for some of their fantastic organic meat http://www.sladefarmorganics.com can’t wait for Sunday lunch!
The living willow season is well and truly on us and we’ve already completed a fair few domes, tunnels, teepees and even a living willow dragon.
We had a lovely time at Ysgol Maes Y Coed both before Christmas doing a willow Christmas decoration day and last month building a willow fedge with colourful basket willow varieties so that the school can grow their own willow for craft and have a lovely living fence.
Big in Barry
We’ve also been big in Barry and had three days at Gladstone Primary and five days at Colcot Primary building mega domes, miles of tunnels and a whole village of teepees. With temperatures below freezing on quite a few occasions we’re all quickly beginning to resemble Nanook of the North and I found myself taking off 15 items of clothing before I entered the much needed willow bath. (That’s not an actual bath made of willow it’s a term used when you’ve been out willowing and freezing your nether regions off all day and the thing you most look forward to is a bath)
The year of the dragon
Snow! Just what you need when faced with three intensive days of living willow planting and just what we got in Bryn Bach Primary in Tredegar. The team were out en force and despite freezing conditions we managed to get all the willow planted and a reasonable dragon shape in three days. Many thanks Mary, Sarah L and Jo for helping out I couldn’t have managed without you. Back to add fiery breath and a nest of dragon’s eggs in a weeks time.
Sometimes you just have to adapt
December was a busy month for our basket makers, we had beginners making blackberry baskets, inters making welsh shoppers and pros making squares.
Vale Adult Learners Beginners made beautiful blackberry baskets and in the absence of the soaking tank (wheelie bin) the local pond came in handy. Not sure what the fish made of it but worked all the same although I did notice a few crawly things when rinsing the baskets off, didn’t like to mention it to anyone. The baskets turned out really well complete with handles, not bad for a day’s work.
Competition between the sound of the fire spitting, the splitting of big willow rods and the cursing of several women was rife in the Heritage Coast Centre, Southerndown when the inters were preparing the willow for their Welsh Shoppers. This was the first of a two day course spread over a month which was making the rim and ribs to allow them to dry for the next course which will be weaving the basket. The process involved taking several large willow rods, splitting them in two, shaving them down to make sturdy ribs and handles which were then pressed around a forma to keep shape. The rim is also a large rod pressed around a forma and allowed to dry out. Looking forward to the weaving in a couple of weeks time.
Square baskets are always a challenge so when several of the pros said let’s make a log basket I thought we’d be there for some time. Day one – bases were complete and baskets staked up, even with all that scalloming. Day two – ten hours later with a no stopping weaving frenzy, a bountiful supply of cake, several trips for baskets to go in and out of my bath, we finally finished. They were beautiful baskets and a real achievement in two days. Just trying to think of more challenges for this year.