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…

Slipper strainers for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service













Well, I’ve made 20 slipper strainers so far! They are based on an old one the Fire Service had been using. Theirs was coming apart and was made of fairly thin rods maybe from a 4′ bundle, so I used 5′ and 6′ willows for the ribs, uprights and weaving and one year salix viminalis for the u- shaped frames. They are not disimilar to an A4 letter tray, but rounded at one end to fit the hose foot, and with a dip so that it fits neatly against the metal hose end. The finished strainer is fitted with a canvas sleeve which is lashed on to attach it to the end of the hose, which is maybe 4-5″ wide.

Interestingly, the stakes are incorporated into the base as it is woven, a technique I hadn’t seen before, but which saves on having to scallom or insert them, which is fine by me!

The sides were well rapped down, and a foot added to the bottom to give the strainer a longer lifespan, and the foot can be replaced before the basket itself becomes damaged.


Marsden Park Centenary Celebration Saturday 23rd June

The day is running from 10.30-3.30, and I’ll be making willow sailing boats amongst other things with willing visitors. They’ve been pretty popular on several workshops this year, and there’s no shortage of water around…come down and have a go yourself, oh, and children like them too…

There’s a lot going on besides so it should be an interesting day.

Willow Suction Strainers for Greater Manchester Fire Brigade

Well, believe it or not, basketry still has a defined place in this modern and technological age! Willow slipper and suction strainers are baskets designed to cover the end of the suction hoses used to take up water from ponds, streams etc. and act as a preliminary filter taking out the weeds and debris, and this week I will be starting an order for Greater Manchester Fire Service. Apparently, there are some plastic versions, but as you can imagine, with the rough handling that they have to withstand, they tend to fracture – unlike a woven structure which flexes!

Tatton Park RHS Flower Show

Partington Parish Council are creating a garden for the RHS Show at Tatton, and naturally the theme is the Olypmics, so I will be working with another artist Julie Vernon to weave an Archer as a feature for the design which is based on 3 archery targets. The framework will be made of hazel and 2 and 3 year old willow, and woven over 2 days with a local school.