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

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January is for New Skills!

Courses

This week started (or last week ended) at the Model House in Llantrisant with eleven new basketmakers trying their hand at small round fruit and bread baskets.  We had visitors from as far away as Durham and Cheshire on this course, it is absolutely incredible how far people will travel to do some willow weaving.  The Model House is a lovely venue, full of inspiring work by artists working in a variety of mediums.  Llantrisant has lovely shops and cafes too!

It's worth travelling 300 miles to make your first basket!

Progressive Baskets

The first of our two progressive basketry courses started this week at the peaceful and inspiring venue of All Saints Church in Southerndown.  Wednesday saw six basketmakers on Progressive 1 which is suitable for beginners – the group are very keen and were not put off in anyway by the arrival of Film Cameras and interviewer from Vale of Glamorgan who are filming us for a promotional video on companies who have benefited from Creative Rural Community grant aid.

A beautiful first basket made by Liz with a Trac Broder

Progressive 2 saw six intermediate basketmakers working on frame baskets with integrated handles working with mostly fresh and a small amount of dried willow  – this is a challenge as fresh willow is a lot less well behaved than buff or dried and soaked willow – it has a mind of its own and control is a lot more difficult.

Everyone managed very well and six beautiful baskets were produced each with its own personality. It was a lovely relaxing day.

Making hoops

Spot the mistake!@!

Ann and Fiona getting to grips with their frames

Growing and Working with Willow – Teacher’s course at National Botanic Gardens

We were back at the National Botanic Gardens on Thursday and Friday running a teachers course in what looked like stunningly beautiful weather – the sun was shining but it was absolutely bitingly cold.  After learning on the job with  hands-on maintenance of one of the structures in the willow playground we used the harvested willow to plant a pretty willow tunnel.  The willow playground is made up of a variety of willows – I recognized Chinese Viminalis (easy as it has scarlet buds which burst into soft pink furry ‘pussy’ willow buds). Q83 – smooth green rods which darken to brown at the tips, a lovely chocolate brown viminalis and then lots of bigger willow which takes quite a lot of maintenance).  John – one of the volunteers at the garden and a fellow course participant – told us about his work with Bob to keep the structures maintained during the winter months.

By popular demand the afternoon was spent learning some simple craft projects for the classroom.  It was wonderful to read some of the comments on the evaluation forms which reflect how inspired people become after courses to take their skills back to their schools – there were many plans afoot for domes, tunnels and shady play structures in school grounds.  It was also lovely to hear how one Christmas Crafts for the Classroom course participant had worked with willow at Christmas time to make a range of natural christmas decorations with her children.  She commented on how she had discovered that working with the willow was a wonderful activity for focussed work on improving children’s abilities to  follow instructions and improve gross and fine motor skills.

Schools Work

A lovely drawing by Charlie who helped build the willow tunnel in Chepstow

We had a great return visit to Alltwen primary school to see the successful willow bed planted in the shape of a Celtic Knot on a wet bank.

Willow planted in 2010 didn’t grow very vigorously  – the drought in April and May stunted the rods and the plants never seemed to make up the lost ground.  With the help of every child in the school we planted 300 dogwood and purple willow cuttings around the edge of the school field and did some basic maintenance on the willow bed.  Despite the pouring rain we had a fabulous day ………

Mel and Helen worked in Chepstow last week on a large willow project, long curved tunnel, a wigwam and an arbour. Lots to fit into a day’s work so the children were  kept very busy.

Mel has also been working hard on the designs for 3 large projects in local schools, we love the Living Willow Season!