Sharing months of my journey this past summer recognizes the good spirit of all those who I worked with, learned from, and felt an important connection to.
I have to also recognize the good nature of the many folks who I spoke with to share the willow rods and willow sticks which we grow in willow groves on our farm. What a delight to provide natural willow materials for others to weave baskets, wattle fence, build living tunnels and erect living fences. Not to forget the sculptures which artists have used willow rods to make their creations. Thank you to our buyers who have helped to support our historic farm of willow in Appalachia ohio.
I found myself in very unexpected places this summer all which were remarkable, challenging, and creative.
Early this summer I attended the Willow Gathering in Decorah Iowa. It was quite a unique venue, pairing talent learners with exceptionally talented teachers for the purpose of creating forms out of willow.
With teachers from Europe come the cultural language of basketmaking which was shared amongst those who attended. I took a daunting and challenging workshop with the Danish basket maker-scholar Steen Madsen. I made a rather large and traditional "fitch" basket. This was real work out on my hands, and a strain on my patience. Both good things!
Then I had the pleasure of working with the basket maker from Spain, Monica Guilera, who shared the traditional way to make Catalonia baskets. This was a super workshop with all kinds of new techniques from a traditional culture.
Traveling from home permits the wandering about on the way back. Not too far from Decorah, I visited the Effigy National Park, where there are unique burial mounds of the indigenous peoples. Nearby was the property of Roger Bollman, and while there where I was able to meditate at his medicine wheel. The You Tube Video of his place is worth the watch.
Early in the summer I was contacted by Aid to Artisans about a potential project to weave in Guyana. I had several discussions with the founder of the project, Alice Layton, who has helped to create an outpost research center in Yapakuri. The project centered on various craftskills of the Makushi people that are used for making needed objects to be used in farming, making food, and living. We developed traditional weaving-plaiting techniques to make woven decorative mats for inserting into kitchen cabinet frames made by Ikea. It was a wonderful project and the Amerindians were beautiful, thoughtful, and industrious people.
Later in the summer I traveled with my partner Maddy to Scotland and England to visit and work with a number of crafters engaged in the willow crafts. First up was a truly rewarding experience weaving a willow coffin with Karen Collins. She is a special soul who operates a collective workshop where she trains young local residents various skills making products which they collectively market and share. Willow coffins are part of a movement of green sustainable burials. Sharing time with Karen was enriching experience, and we certainly enjoyed learning some new dog tricks from her terrier, Sally. Thanks Karen!
Since the 1970’s I have wanted to visit the intentional community of Findhorn on the northern shores Moray Firth in Scotland. The collective spirit of caring, sharing folks who embrace the vision of living in harmony with nature and each other. What a great day. Thank you Findhorn.
On to work with basketmaker Eddie Glew in Stafordshire England! Eddie is a brilliant basket maker representing a wide range of traditional basket making skills. He is talented and remarkably grounded in his work and it was a pleasure i to share a week together working on weaving techniques. Great Britain's basket making future is in capable, talented, and generous hands. Check out his website, he is going to get Knighted from the King someday. Thank you Eddie!
Musgrove Willows, in the Somerset Flats, was an important opportunity to visit an industrial willow growing complex. Third generation grower Jack took us on a tour of their processing, harvesting, and producing departments. Thank you Jack!
And since we were in the neighborhood, we visited the ancient sites of Stonehenge and Glastonbury. It was a remarkable and humbling recognition life span.
Maddy had some side trips to visit a medieval tile maker, and to the historic potteries of Stoke on Trent. You may read about it on her blog!
I next met with Andrew Basham, who lives in Saffron Walden, England. Andy is a master hurdle maker, rustic hazel furniture maker, and care taker of an ancient Coppice forest. I spent a couple days with Andy making a rustic bench out of hazel rods and another day walking through the coppice forest. Andy is an all around nice guy. Thank you Andy for inviting us to have a "look in."
A visit to the echo craft center in Derbyshire England was a chance to view a working living center where traditional life skills are taught in a green sustainable structure. This a creative and learning center which conjoins artistic thinking and the craft of making with natural ecology.
Great experience, memory, and inspiration from talented and generous people who live in an incredible and responsibly cared for landscape. Can't wait to go back for more! We also sincerely hope that those who were so generous with time and home know that they are welcomed here on Rosehill Farm.
Returning home to our lovely willow farm in Ohio, I look for another round of basketmaking, farm work and plain simple living