Why do you always dry and rehydrate your materials?
It’s really important to dry the majority of materials before using as when the plants go through the drying process they lose a lot of their mass, often shrinking to a small fraction of their original size. This means any cordage/basket made with fresh materials could become quite loose! Which is fine if your just having fun and practicing but could be a nasty surprise if you’re not prepared for how much it will shrink!
Do you do workshops?
Currently I don’t do any in person teaching. It’s something I hope to work up to doing in the future, after I’ve completed my book. I’m rather shy, so at the moment the idea of talking in front of a bunch of humans terrifies me! I’ll get there and hopefully will feel less anxious about it in the future. In the mean time I’ll keep sharing online and doing my best to get the book finished.
Where can I find more information on basket weaving?
Everybody's journey into a craft will be different as we all decide to take up things for different reasons. Some may want to learn basketry to become more self-reliant, some may want to deepen their connection to plants and the natural world and some may want to learn basketry because they want something to contain their trinkets.
Just as we all have our different reasons for learning we all thrive with different methods of learning whether that's structured classes and workshops or chaotic experimentation that's up to you :) There's no right way.
In general though I think a good way of getting started with wild basketry is to get acquainted with your local flora. get hold of a local plant identification book and get to know your local leafy beings by name. Slowly as you become more and more obsessed with plants and their fibres, which will inevitably happen, you will notice similarities between plants that lend themselves to weaving and soon you'll be able to choose which plants would be good to experiment with.
This is why learning botanical families is also useful as many times whole families will share similar weavable parts.
Another reason it's so important to learn in depth about what plants what is because it's our duty to honour the plants and never over harvest. If you're not familiar with the plants you could easily end up harvesting plants that really shouldn't be harvested in your area and neglecting the invasive ones which it would make sense to use loads of.
When it comes to which basketry skill to learn first I would go with learning to make cordage. it's a good way to get your hands and fingers used to the different plant materials, the gathering process and drying/soaking times.
These days more and more awesome wild fibre and basket tutorials are popping up on YouTube so if you're a visual learner that's a good way to go, if you prefer books there's plenty of those too and if your able to take an in person class with somebody do that. I know these aren't always affordable for everyone but often it's possible to offer an exchange instead!
I'm not sure if a plant is weavable, how do I find out if it's suitable for basketry?
There are so many beautiful plants in this world and so much unknown about them. There is no definitive list of every weavable plant so even if you've done your research and found nothing you should still experiment!
Gather and dry a bunch to see how it rehydrates and weaves. Even if it doesn’t turn out great, you’ll learn loads from the process.
Also, if you’re on Facebook, I’d recommend joining the group wild basketry, the community there welcomes all wild fibre related questions and there’s such an abundance of plant and fibre knowledge between the lot of them!
When/how did you start weaving?
It was a few years ago now, whilst feeling a bit lost in this crazy world of ours and in need of direction, that I sat and had a long think about what it was I wanted to spend my days learning about.
Plants of course! They are beautiful beings and absolutely integral to our existence.
So, I dedicated myself to making my own little planty education. I started by buying myself an Identification book and obsessively going through the pages, getting to know the plants and their families and collecting and pressing many of them. Then came the foraging... Which was around the same time I joined my first community. This was a beautiful period of time. A time when I met many other plant/nature obsessed people who taught me many many things and opened my mind to different ways of living. We spent our days planting potatoes, singing songs, telling stories, making massive wild salads of chickweed, dandelion, chenopod and sorrel and learning about herbal medicine together. There was always herbs hanging to dry and big pots of herbal infusions brewing on the fire. The first weaving came when one day when I was mulling over how I was going to build to new vegetable beds. I wanted to use the materials we had to hand on the land and nothing was more abundant than Hazel. The first veggie bed of the woven hazel was rubbish but pretty quickly my hands took to the simple repetitive motions and I was in love. This new tactile way of connecting with plants had hooked me, the smells, the textures, the movements the whole process fascinated me. Unfortunately as I spent the next few years on the road without much of a base, it was only when I got back home to Cumbria that I could really immerse myself in this new found passion of tangling plants and their leaves, vines, roots, bark and stems.
Where do you source your packaging from?
All my packaging is either handmade or recycled. I purchase gift boxes from a local company and I also work in a shop so any bigger boxes or packaging paper I source from there.
Is there a vague rule of when to gather the different materials?
Yes, obviously this is a vast simplification but -
Winter - Vines and sticks
Spring - Bark
Summer - Stems
Autumn - Leaves
How do we know when you have a shop update?
I will share both on Instagram and Facebook and of course to those subscribed to my email update list which you are welcome to add your email too.
I do an update most months but I'm not strict about it, I can't be as having enough stock for an update depends on far too many things! Weaving is a slow craft and I'm just one person.
How do I stop materials and baskets from going mouldy?
Having your materials go mouldy can literally be devastating! I’ve had it happen and it’s so sad so see all that work from both you and the plant be ruined! If it’s very minor the materials can be wiped clean but otherwise they are destined for the compost.
Stored properly though, materials shouldn’t go mouldy, if they are it’s a sign that you have a damp problem in your house. A dehydrator can combat this a little but dampness and basket work do not compliment each other well at all!
There are many ways to store your materials but the main thing to bear in mind is air flow. Do not keep them cramped altogether in a corner or the back of a draw. Instead, keep them in loosely bundled bunches, either hanging against a dry wall or hanging free. If you have access to old veg crates, type with many holes, these can be used for storing shorter fibres. The holes allow air to pass through but make sure the materials are totally dry before putting them in.
Keep an eye on your fibres, check them fairly regularly so you can catch any mould/damp issues before they ruin your whole collection.
Do you do custom orders?
I do not do any custom orders. It's something I've tried but it didn't work out, I find those leaves have a mind of their own and I do not enjoy forcing them into a particular shape, I rather just weave and see what appears!
Do you ship overseas?
Yes I do, anything sent overseas is sent via the post office tracked option. After I have dropped off your package I will send you over the tracking code so you can check whereabouts your package is on it's jouney!
For overseas shipping buyers are responsible for any customs and import taxes that may apply or any delays due to customs.
Do you sell wholesale, to shops or to galleries?
Unfortunately I’m unable to do that.
I would love to sell my work else where other than online but sadly its not viable whilst keeping the baskets at a fair price. I know a large commission is necessary with resale so either the baskets would end up extremely over priced or I would end up underpaid for my work, which I am as a crafts person most the time anyhow!
How do I clean a dusty basket?
This kind of depends a lot on what your basket is made from. A willow basket can of course cope with more than say a leafy basket but neither want to be thrown in the wash. The two ways I would recommend are either using a soft brush to delicately rid the basket of dirt/dust or using a damp cloth to wipe the basket. If using the second method make sure to let it dry properly afterwards!