New basketry and willow sculpture courses in Manchester Jan-Mar 2015

There are dates for courses I’m running Jan-Mar in basketry and willow sculpture. Living willow sculpture courses are held in winter during the dormant period. On these courses, we build a structure together and included in the cost is willow to make your own at home.

A new course for this year is making living willow numbers for the garden…

Living willow numbers - St. Hugh's Primary School, Oldham

Living willow numbers – St. Hugh’s Primary School, Oldham

Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair 9th-12th October

The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair begins this Friday at the Old Granada Studios in Manchester, the preview evening is Thursday. There will some 150 makers ranging from jewellry and textiles to ceramics and glass, and I’m really excited to be taking part.

I will be exhibiting new baskets made from willow worked on stoneware bases, so combining two loves.

Stoneware crank base with inlaid and sponged slips, buff and self dyed buff willow

Stoneware crank base with inlaid and sponged slips, buff and self dyed buff willow

Fitchwork and border with dyed and buff willow

Fitchwork and border with dyed and buff willow

I’ve been dyeing willow with fibre reactive dyes, I like the inconsistency of not being able to dye the whole length of the rod.

Stoneware base impressed with doily, coloured with slips and glazed

Stoneware base impressed with doily, coloured with slips. oxide and glaze


Dyed and buff willow on stoneware base decorated with glazes

Dyed and buff willow on stoneware base decorated with glazes

The one above alternates the dyed and buff rods, but in some baskets the arrangement is less formal.

I’m also excited and thrilled that Uppercase Magazine have invited me to be featured in the January issue. Uppercase Magazine is a quarterly Canadian publication – a magazine for the creative and the curious, and a rare joy in these digital times. Uppercase have very generously donated a year long subscription towards the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair’s Charity Prize Raffle – be sure to enter!
And hope to see you at the Fair!


New Work at Manchester Christmas Markets

I will be at the Christmas Markets Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd December, 10-8), 10-6 Sun)  with new baskets for sale. So if you’ve still not bought yourself or your loved ones a present come and say hello…!

I am sharing a stall with START – located on Brazennose Street, which runs between the Town Hall Square and Deansgate, and we are towards the Deansgate end.

Workshop for September LoFi, Common, Northern Quarter

LoFi are a bunch of crafters who meet up at Common, in the Northern Quarter once a month to share and make something specific in an informal and friendly workshop. This month they’ve invited me to show them how to make willow platters, an example is below.











These are fairly simple to make but disproportionately pleasing, and useful for well, lots and lots of things, so I’m looking forward to the evening and seeing how they turn out…


I think it may be full, but for future Lo-Fi get togethers email


Olympic Lanterns for Irlam and Cadishead Festival

At the end of August there is an annual festival in Irlam with a lantern and fire show in the evening, and this year the theme was the Olympics, so for few days over the summer holidays, I worked alongside Fay Flatt, Arts Officer for Irlam and Cadishead, and Amy a youth worker, to create 2 lanterns based on Greek urns, basing the design and decoration on the original Greek Olympics.

I decided that the technical work of making the frames, realistically, given the time frame, needed to be done outside of the workshops themselves, so with some research, some drawing, some scaling up and a lot of white gaffer tape, I made the skeleton of the lanterns at the studio, so that the groups could finish off and decorate.












Two different shapes were made, and I have come to appreciate the deceptive simplicity of the proportions of the pottery of ancient Greece.

The next stage was to apply a wet strength tissue paper to the structure, this was the fun stage, and we spent the first 2 sessions with a group at Cadishead Hall. A weatherproof PVA was diluted 1:1 with water, as I had anticipated an uncertain forecast for the Bank Holiday Monday.










We had a further 3 sessions at Irlam and Cadishead College working with groups of the incoming Year 7 pupils who were in for an introductory week. Over the 3 days, they helped construct the framework, papered the larger urn, and decorated both lanterns with Olympic inspired motifs using silver and gold tissue paper.























The lanterns were carried on thick bamboo poles and lit up with some nifty LED torches secured to the framework.

The whole project was great fun, and I find there’s nothing like trying to interpret two thousand or so years of refined and subtle design with sticks and paper for providing an Olympic challenge.

Dragonfly at Old Trafford Community School

In July,shortly before the school holidays, I was invited into school to work for a few days with some classes to create something for their nature garden which has had a pond established in it. A dragonfly seemed to fit in well, and an insect is a good sculpture for a project as the several components of the body utilise different techniques and include some basketry weaves as well as random weaving.

With a head, eyes, thorax, abdomen and wings to construct there was plenty to do, and small groups of pupils came out for about 1 hour at a time.








The head and  thorax were first to be made, and over 3 days the various body parts were created, with the wings shaped from some thicker peeled willow sticks…








and eyes made as deeply curved basket bases…


















With a bit of magic the assortment of odd shapes was joined together and a dragonfly emerged…










Many thanks to all the teaching assistants who assisted…!

Plaited baskets in bark and paper string









In April I spent a day with Avril Otiv at her home in Crewe, on a workshop to learn the basics of bias plaiting, using Kamihimo paper tape, a sturdy craft tape made up of 10 paper ‘strings’ glued together. The natural coloured basket in the photo above was made on the workshop and the 2 coloured pouch was my first attempt on my own…










The tape can be split, and for these small bias twill plaited baskets, the tape was split into widths of 4 strands. The process is fascinating, and a flat grid of 12 by 12 lengths is woven into a 3 dimensional pouch, 2 of the corners forming the bottom corners of the pouch, with the others ending up half way up the front and back.

Some of the other makers used willow bark, and I left itching to harvest some for myself and try it out.

Keeping my eyes peeled, ha ha, for long straight lengths of willow, in May I got down to harvesting some rolls of bark, firstly from some 1 and 2 year old Salix viminalis. This peels away beautifully and cleanly at the right time of year, when the sap has risen and the bark loosens away from the wood. The bark dries to a straw white on the inner side and is an even olive green on the other – but the really interesting thing is the rapid change in colouration when you come to soak the bark to make it pliable for weaving. I immersed the roll of bark for 10-15 minutes in luke warm water, and by the time it was ready the inside had turned a deep tan colour, darker than buff willow.










The bark is surprisingly thick and pliable, like leather, and but once worked and dry is hard and brittle. I’ve wondered if using a wood oil would brings back some suppleness.

This one of the baskets I’ve made so far – I’ve combined the Salix viminalis with some Salix daphnoides – a purple bark with an intense yellow inner when fresh which sadly becomes dark brown when resoaked…