Courses, courses, courses

Lorna is a natural

Lorna is a natural

Since the beginning of December we have run 19 courses with 175 people attending, how wonderful is that!  It has been so lovely to meet so many new friends and see old friends returning to hone their skills.  One of our  students, Maggie, told us that we should give out a health warning at the beginning of courses ‘Be aware that you may become seriously addicted’ – this has proved so true with some members of our improvers groups now having up to 15 courses under their belts and beginners booking further courses before their first day is even finished!

Beginners courses have been going really well with courses fully booked weeks ahead of their date.  The enthusiasm and excitement of students has been so inspiring and many beautiful first born baskets have been produced.  We teach 3 Beginners courses, a small round stake and strand basket and 2 different frame basket courses.
First round basket

First round basket

The improvers courses have seen some astonishingly accomplished baskets produced and everyone has continued to improve their skills remarkably.  During these courses we always try to encourage students to extend their skills by using new weaves and trying out new techniques while they have the time to concentrate and someone on hand to instruct and assist where necessary.  The log basket course challenged students to plan their basket carefully and select all their materials before starting.  7 and 8 ft willow was prepared for side stakes and then a variety of different weaves including ‘Roy’s Wale’ (thanks to Roy Youdale) were taught and practised.  All students finished a great variety of attractive oval or round baskets.



Hands on the Basket Alison

Phil's second basket      Double French Rand Challenge

The most recent improvers course ‘Hedgerow Bowl’ challenged the students in two ways, achieving a honeypot shape and incorporating fresh hedgerow material into their baskets.  To achieve a perfect bowl shape entails working really hard to ensure an even curve, the weaving pulls the side stakes out and the basket tries it’s very best to become a platter – the weaver has to stay calm and keep an even inward pressure on every stake so that eventually the sides of the basket curve in …….  The side stakes are tied together and then attached to the base of the basket so that the weaver can pull the stakes into a deeper and deeper curve.  There were a few heartfelt sighs but everyone got there in the end to produce some very fine work.  Improvers courses we are looking forward to are Fitching, Lidded Knitting Basket and Square Baskets.

Bowl Shape Basket   Jo's bowlBuds

We have lots of other courses, including some new for 2013 such as Baskets for the Garden currently advertised on the website, why not come to the beautiful Heritage Coast and join our merry band!

Mary’s cradle

IMG_5587 Only three months since the last post so getting better.

In September one of our lovely basket makers, Mary Ponting, came to us for a little bit of guidance on making a willow cradle for her son’s friend.

Armed with a mattress, a set of white (handled with extreme care) fitted inserts, a stand for the cradle to sit on and a printed picture of what the cradle looked like we set to work. Size was quite important so we measured carefully with measuring tape, wrote everything down on paper and crossed fingers. Mary set to work on the base while I was very happy being her basket making apprentice sorting willow, making tea, wiping her brow while she wove away. Day one and the base was finished, “I never thought it would take that long!” said Mary, I nodded sagely.


Day two was German waling, pricking up and weaving away. We had to tie the uprights straight away to get the rounded front and back to come into shape. Crunch time came when we remembered to test out the mattress, inserts and put the halfway cradle onto the stand. Holding breath for what seemed an eternity we both let out a sigh of relief when it all fitted beautifully.


Day three, more weaving, waling, packing, border and brow wiping. The cradle started to take shape nicely and Mary worked very hard with barely a whimper. After a good dunking in the bath it was finally time for the border. The end result was so fantastic and a real heirloom. Well done Mary!


Beautiful willow sculptures


 Who’d of thought of a willow tortoise, Rachel did and look how fabulous he (obviously) turned out.

By popular demand we had two Willow Sculpture courses running in September and what fantastic creations our participants came up with. Following on from ‘Four Herons and a Dolphin’ on last May’s willow sculpture course we’ve now had five ducks, butterfly, heart, cormorant, hedgehog, mushroom, peacock, chicken and of course the lovely tortoise.


Willow sculpture is very time consuming but very worthwhile and as these photos show a whole manner of shapes can be achieved. It’s also very lively as shown by Christine, holding on for dear life to her lovely duck, she didn’t want to let him loose!

Our next Willow Sculpture course is on 25 May 2013, look out for more willowy creations.

It seemed like it would never end

 How many?

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 🙂

What’s been happening ‘3’… the final chapter

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… 🙂



What’s been happening ‘2’…

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


What’s been happening….

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.