Creative Crafts Skills Awards

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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 …..

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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.

 

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!