'LOVE-TREES' at Noosa Regional Gallery

Don't miss the last week of the 'Tree Place' exhibition curated by my good friend and fellow fibre researcher Anne Harris of Annie's Workroom  at Noosa Regional Gallery, Tewantin, Queensland, including my tryptch 'LOVE-TREES' until Sunday 27th January 2019.

You can find the whole back story on this amazing project on the 'Tree Place' website.

Text and images of my new works made specicifically for the 'Tree Place' exhibition below:


Carved, scratched, stabbed and abused – street trees the world over endure the attentions of careless drivers, unthinking builders and idle romantics. This trio of photo-collages documents the scars left behind and the interaction of our unnoticed living neighbours with our un-natural environment as their roots undermine tarmac creating abstract calligraphy.

During 2017 English artist and basketmaker Tim Johnson spent 8 weeks in Australia undertaking textile and sculpture projects in Newcastle, NSW and on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. During his time in Newcastle Tim was struck by the ongoing threats to the cities magnificent ficus street trees and the campaign against the removal of heritage parkland for a short term sporting event.

At home in Vilanova i La Geltru, Catalonia, many of the streets are strangely lined with Australian natives – Kurrajongs and Casuarinas – here too the trees are routinely carved, scarred and abused without thought or concern.

Tim Johnson  October 2018


blue/green: color/code/context at browngrotta arts

Opening today:
Blue/Green: color/code/context at browngrotta arts, Connecticut, USA.

I'm very happy to be exhibiting my new work 'Liminal' in this exhibition with more than 50 artists from 15 countries exploring all aspects and meanings of 'Blue/Green'.

The exhibition runs April 28th - May 6th, 2018
at browngrotta arts in Wilton,Connecticut,USA


'Cortines' exhibition in Mas de Barberans - last few weeks!

In the spring of 2016 Monica Guilera and Tim Johnson initiated a year long community research project (first blogged here: 'Cortines' project underway... ) inviting participants from diverse professions to design and create their own 'Cortine' or fly curtain.

Flexible dividers of space creating shade, privacy and deterring insects from entering your home - Cortines are common features of many Mediterranean homes, shops and restaurants, a 'soft barrier' these diverse and decorative functional wares were once hand made with a variety of local natural materials - rush stems, Oleander bark, cork, grass seed beads, string netted, crocheted and knotted. Today they are manufactured in plastic ribbons and metal chains - it seems at some point we willingly gave up the opportunity for domestic creativity for the sake of convenience. The aim of this project was both to research the historical tradition and to explore the possibilities for contemporary creative expression. Can we reinvigorate this domestic craft?

The creative process that followed involved the combination of a wide variety of natural, man made and recycled materials with diverse techniques. The numerous experiments and samples made by the participants reflected their skills and interests facilitated by Tim and Monica with regular workshop sessions and the introduction of new materials and techniques. You can find a gallery of the making process here: Sculpture > Cortines project, Mas de Barberans 2016-17

Now our exhibition 'Cortines' - celebrating the Spanish tradition of handmade domestic flyscreens is on show at the Museu de la Pauma, Mas de Barberans, Catalonia, Spain until mid June 2018 and features over 20 cortines made during the project and is accompanied by historical photographs and contextual information of the heritage of cortines in the Baix Ebre and Montsia region.

Don't miss the chance to see this exhibition in it's final few weeks! More information about the museum here: Museu de la Pauma

Detailed research articles by Pepa Subirats and M. Carmen Queralt are available here:

First paper: Curtains : Separator of Spaces and Lives and Reason of Artistic Expression Part 1 (in the Montsiá and Baix Ebre ) by M. Carme Queralt & Pepa Subirats.

Second paper: Separator of Spaces and Lives and Reason of Artistic Expression Part 2 (in the Montsiá and Baix Ebre ) by M. Carme Queralt & Pepa Subirats.


Weaving by the Sea 2017 and 2018

This week we are preparing course details and arrangements for Weaving by the 2018, 28th September - 4th October, all the workshop descriptions, prices and booking details will be up soon on the Weaving by the Sea blog.

It's been a pleasure looking back at 2017's six workshops and our special day trip to the Museu de la Pauma in Mas de Barberans as I have put together a new gallery here: Weaving by the Sea 2017

I think the pictures speak for themselves - great making, lovely weather and good company - see you at Weaving by the Sea 2018!



space & light captured 

One day we made little nests molding freshly cut hair in our cupped hands.


nesting behaviour

Inspired by my last post exploring the remarkable nests of weaver-birds and their influenec on my work over the years, I've gathered a selection of my photographs of other nests, enclosed spaces for nurture and protection.

Please note all of these photographs were taken with great care not to disturb the nesting birds and those photos with eggs were taken quickly and minimising disturbance. If you want to watch or photograph nesting birds please check the information provided here by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds first - providing useful advice and the legalities with in the UK: Bird Photography and the Law

Above: Delicately woven nest - not sure of the species, from the collection of Jillian Culey - Branching Out, NSW, Australia taken during my visit earlier in 2017.

Below: Amazing ad-hoc behaviour of a Wren making it's nest on top of a Swallow's nest from the previous season, in the workshop of good friend Danish basketmaker Mai Hvid Jørgensen. 2010.06

Above: Blackbird's nest under the thatched roof of a house in the Iron age village of Jernalderlandsbyen near Odense, Denmark. 2008.05

Below: A nest in a hedgerow during the winter, Rosehall, Sutherland, Scotland. 2004.12

Above: An unusual ground nesting Blackbird, Odense, Denmark. 2010.05

Below: Meadow Pipit nest on the Isle of Unst, Shetland  2004.06

Above: Oystercatcher nest along the River Spey near Kingussie, Scotland 2005.06

Below: A nest in a thorny hedgerow near Newport on the Isle of Wight, strangely full of the fallen berries of the Guelder Rose. 2010.11

Above: Monk Parrots are a common feature of my hometown Vilanova I La Geltru on the Mediterranean coast, here making their big spiky nests in a large gum tree. 2013.05

Below: The nest of a Water Rail among reeds on one of the many lochs of Speyside, Scotland. 2005.06

Below: Family of Mute Swans on the Brahan Estate, Ross-shire. 2006.05


Not so random - weaverbirds and willow domes.

Above & below: Weaverbird's nest from the workshop of French basketmakers Karen Gossart and Corentin Laval.Since childhood I've had a deep fascination for birds and everything about them, as a child (well and today also!) I would collect their feathers, nests, skulls and bones, owl pellets - everything! So perhaps it's no suprise that their constructions as nest builders continue to influence my work.

Below some of my large pieces inspired by the avian master weavers - bird from the weaverbird family that live in Africa and Asia. Creating these large structures not only enlarges a natural phenomenon but changes our perspective on the landscape and articulates a definition of captured space and volume.

Above: Bamboo dome, National Trust Sculpture Residency, Rowallane Garden, Co.Down, N. Ireland, 1996

Above: 'Roost' Dane Valley Willow Project, Cheshire, UK, 1998

Above: 'Wait' MA Sculpture final show, Winchester School of Art 1999

There is a common perception and naming of this type of weaving as 'random' - however following my researches in various natural history museum collections around the world, weaver birds are far from random in their activities and weave in a specific manner that is both economical with material and time and captures the nesting space required with efficiency. My own 'bird-weaving' or 'fugl-flet' as it has become known in Denmark, follows a similar process and develops in specific stages that are not random but carefully orchestrated. It is of course understandable that a viewer may use terms of randomness or chaos to describe what they do not percieve as having a recognisable order.

This autumn I've been busy with several commercial projects utilising the benefits of 'bird-weaving', the technique not only has a beautiful and distinctive look it also has the special qualities of allowing the maker to define organic shapes in an economic way and also in collaboration with many other makers all working simultaneously.

Above: Lampshades for a bar in A Coruña, Galicia - in collaboration with Marta Penina, Monica Guilera and Carles Alcoy.

Below: Work in progress creating mock-up stage props for the internationally acclaimed theatre company 'La Fura dels Baus'

Below: A large sculptural projection space for an exhibition of the work of Mari Chordà at Lo Pati, contemporary art space in Amposta, Catalonia.


Catching up and catching my breath......

Hi folks - it's been a while since I've managed to log in here and jot a few notes - in fact I see not since I headed off for Australia in March! That project - The Deeper Voice of Textiles was a huge public and personal success and very rewarding for myself in many ways - while I have some photo stories still to post - much of the project can be seen documented on the special blog here: The Deeper Voice of Textiles.

I was honoured to be asked to write an account of my experiences during the project for the online magazine 'Garland', this excellent magazine journals all kinds of makings in the Asia-Pacific-Australasia region. My article can be read online here: An Invitation to Create: The Deeper Voice of Textiles, don't miss the gallery of 30 of my photographs from the project accessed by clicking the portrait collage at the head of the article.

Since my return rom Australia I've been working on projects in Spain as well as quick visits to Denmark, the UK and the USA. I'll try and post a selection of project shots over the coming weeks but here is a selection as a quick update - more soon!

'Nomad's Fold', 2017,  European Cane, Willow, Walnut husk dyed Sisal, from the exhibition 'Still Crazy After All These Years.... 30 years in art' at browngrotta arts, Wilton, CT, USA in April 2017

'Heir(air)loom', willow, steel cable & fence posts, part of the exhibition Over Havet Under Himlet, Odense, Denmark, curated by Jette Mellgren & Jan Johansen, May 2017.

'Sobre la marxa' ('on the go') - this year's Rafal project in Mas de Barberans, Catalonia with guest artists Klaus Titze and Jan Johansen from Denmark. Inspired by the extraordinary work of Catalan artist 'Tarzan de Argelaguer' - you can have an insight to his world in the short film here La Cosa and the excellent longer film Garrell - El Tarzan d'Argelaguer.

With my partner, Monica Guilera, our current exhibition 'Cortines' at the Museu de la Pauma in Mas de Barberans, Catalonia, is the product of a two year project involving over 20 makers researching and celebrating the tradition of Cortines - flexible fly screens and space dividers commonly used throughout Spain. The exhibition continues till June 2018.

More soon........


Back to the land of the bowerbird....

By Monday night I'll be back in the land of the bowerbird! Exciting times as I embark on a 2 month trip working on a sculpture project 'The deeper Voice of Textiles' in Newcastle, NSW, Australia in collaboration with Timeless Textiles - the foremost contemporary textile gallery in Australia. More of this project to come - but first back to the bowers - in this case photographs of the bower or dancing ground of the male Satin Bowerbird that I photographed on my last trip in 2015. Since childhood I've been fascinated by these birds and their constructions built not for nesting - but display and attracting a mate. Interwoven twigs are combined with a variety blue trinkets gathered from the locality - in this case the family home of Harriet Goodall (thankyou for hosting me Harriet!).

In 2000 I took up an artist's residency with the New England Regional Arts Museum in Armidale, NSW, after the residency I then travelled on to Alice Springs and the Olgas in the central desert region of Australia, here I was lucky enough to catch up with the Western Bowerbird noisily feeding around the dry river beds. Onwards and up to Caiman Creek in the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park in Arnhem Land, NT and the Great Bowerbird with it's spectacular bower decorated with shells, bones, mangrove nuts and a bouquet of greenery - below you can see a scan of one of my 35mm slides from my trusty old Olympus OM1.

Above - Great Bowerbird's bower, Caiman Creek, NT

Below - Satin Bowerbird's bower, Robertson, NSW.


.....some of my favourite baskets are twined

Above: Openwork Pandanus basket by Rosie Bindal Bindal, Yilan near Maningrida, NT, Australia

Yes - some of my favourite baskets are twined - that is - woven with two or more weavers travelling along at the same time capturing stakes as they go and twisting around each other - there are lots of twining variations and for some reason they have always captured my attention. Perhaps because it was one of the first techniques I learnt many years ago with Mary Butcher, maybe because I have been lucky enough to join indigenous makers in Australia as they make or perhaps just because it is such a great way of joining stuff together.

I've gathered and been given some nice examples over the years and here is a selection photographed this evening on my workshop terrace. If you would like to learn some of these techniques why not join me at  Weaving by the Sea 2017

Above: Iringa basket in alternate pair and three strand twining, Tanzania.

Above: Chinese rush slippers - bought in Paris

Above: Openwork grass basket for collecting grasshoppers, Uganda. Thanks to Jette Mellgren & Jan Johansen who gave this to me during the Asante Sana project.

Above: Finely twined hat in Bear Grass and Maidenhair Fern, California. Hupa, Karok or Yurok peoples

Above: basket - perhaps California - Hupa, Karok or Yurok peoples

Above: Openwork grass glass holder - countered rows of twining with stakes lattice arranged

Above: beautiful basket from the Ye'kuana rainforest people of the Orinoco River region, Venezuela.


Twining Techniques at Barcelona Botanic Garden

Here are a few photographs of my rush twining course hosted by Barcelona Botanic Garden and organised by the Catalan Basketmakers Association in mid January. More courses are arranged for this spring and the programme can be seen here: 2016-17 Programme


'light and line' for Newcastle NSW

My new basket 'light and line' has arrived in Newcastle , New South Wales, Australia ready for the new exhibition 'Holding: Contemporary Fibre Art' at the Newcastle City Gallery selected by special guest curator Anne Kempton of Timeless Textiles.

Update 2016.12.07 The exhibition is now up and running and the online catalogue can be seen here: Holding: Interpretations of vessels by contemporary fibre artists

Some gathered thoughts for the exhibition catalogue:

Light & Line

Looking at historical baskets in museum collections frequently leads my work in new directions. Unfamiliar techniques and unusual materials draw my eye and inspire experimentation. Often in the absence of a traditional maker a desire to understand the structure and making processes can only be understood through hands on making, numerous mistakes and continued looking and reappraisal.

This basket made from plastic drinking straws and dyed fishing line combines inspirations from South African Zulu and Aboriginal Australian basket making traditions seen on recent travels and researches. While the techniques are straightforward the way the making progresses is unusual as this basket can be finished at the top or the bottom and decisions can be made at various stages of the works progression by pinching and squashing the form. In the context of the 'Holding 'exhibition I am happy that this work is made through such a manipulation of contained space. Other recent pieces have included concepts of 'folding space' as well as encircling or capturing space. 

Working with unfamiliar translucent materials encouraged me to experiment with layering weaves and playing with different amounts of opacity in the dying of the fishing line. In this basket the transparency of the stakes or straws allows the weaving structure to be clearly seen - the normally hidden is made visible.

Technique and material combine to create - I hope - a pleasing form with traditional functional references but an essentially aesthetic and delicate appearance.

Is this a useful basket? What could it be for? Why would one make such things in an age of modern materials and mechanisation? The basket asks a variety of questions and represents a snapshot from a longer continuity of making and experimentation.

Tim Johnson October 2016



Exploring Twined Structures with the Northumbrian Basketmakers

Following the excellent long weekend with the Scottish Basketmakers' Circle at Kindrogan near Pitlochry I was delighted to be invited to come and teach for the Northumbrian Basketry Group in Hepple. Whisked south (thankyou Anna!) I arrived a day early in Coquetdale and was very happy to have a day wandering the countryside on a gorgeous sunny day and revisiting places I visited in my childhood. It was a pleasure to find many plants familiar to my childhood botanising such as Purple Moor Grass, Bog Myrtle, Ling Heather and Hair Moss that have now become special to me as materials for making.

Above: Hair Moss (Polytrichum commune) on the edge of the Otterburn ranges.

The lovely old Hepple village hall - originally the primary school - provided an excellent and warm venue for teaching and making. Using two varieties of rush ( chair seating and salt) bought in for the workshop and a selection of other local and garden materials we explored different twining structures that give strength, texture and different making speeds. Defined as a weaving technique with two or more weavers travelling along together and twisting as they go locking in stakes, the twining family is very diverse with numerous variations from worldwide traditions.

Working with a special 3 part mould  we started with plain twining then moved on to further variations including alternate pair twining, chain pairing and the very attractive but long named 'chased - countered- alternate pair twining'. As the 10 participants got their fingers and minds around the different weave structures we were thoughtfully kept in good shape with a steady supply of tea, biscuits and cakes and a great atmosphere of group learning.

I ended the two day workshop with a demonstration of two variations of handles or straps that can be added to rush baskets depending on how they are to be used. Many thanks to everyone who made the workshop possible especially Charlotte Boxall who ran the event so well.

Above: Deer Sedge (Trichophorum cespitosum) at Holystone Burn Nature Reserve.

Below: Birch and Purple Moor Grass (Molinia caerulea) in Coquetdale.


Teaching for the Scottish Basketmakers' Circle, Kindrogan, October 2016

I'm home now after a great trip northwards - first to Sandown on the Isle of Wight (above) then onwards up to Perthshire in Scotland to teach for the Scottish Basketmakers' Circle's autumn meeting and then on to teach for the Northumberland Basketmakers in Hepple - whose workshop will be in my next blog post.

In the beautiful surroundings of Kindrogan Field Studies Centre (below) my class was one of three and I decided to teach an open ended class 'Bundlesticks and Freecoiling'. Participants gathered a variety of local materials and combining these with willow and rush brought in, we explored a variety of fibre preparation processes, cordage making techniques and twining structures that lead to a fantastic atmosphere focused on learning specific traditional techniques but with open ended outcomes depending on the participants wishes.

Everyone was keen to learn the finer points of palm binding cordage and mastering the ever challenging cranking of willow to make two and three ply willow ropes - so useful for the making of beautiful handles in traditional willow baskets. Makers went away with a variety of small baskets, weaving samplers, clews of cordage and bundles of materials to carry on with projects and explorations at home. Thankyou to everyone who made the event so enjoyable both from the SBC and Kindrogan staff.


The Basketmakers' Associations Challenge Cup

Correction : Apologies I made a mistake in the award that I won described in the text below - I didn't win the Basketmakers' Association Barbara Maynard Challenge Cup - but I did win the Basketmakers' Association Challenge Cup! So rather than delete all the information about Barbara Maynard I will leave as is but with this correction......

In October I attended The Basketmakers' Association AGM in London, this year the meeting was themed around rushwork with an excellent talk by rush and willow basket maker Nadine Anderson and rush technique taster workshops in the afternoon. I brought along one of my recent shoulder baskets for the competition and was delighted and suprised to win! The annual competition is the Basketmakers' Associations' Challenge Cup presented to the association by Barbara Maynard in the BA's formative years.

Barbara Maynard was first Chairman and co-founder of the Basketmakers’ Association as well as author of several basketry books including Modern Basketry from the start 1973 and Basketry Step by Step 1977 and Modern Basketry Techniques 1989. While looking a little dated now, when we have so many high quality basketry books to choose from, at the time they were useful and influencial publications.

Curious about the history of the BA and Barbara's influence I found the following passage by Lois Walpole in her article 'The Emergence of Contemporary Basketmaking in Britain' in the Basketmakers' Association 25th Anniversary Newsletter of October 2000.

"For me there is no doubt that one of the key players in the emergence of contemporary basketmaking in Britain in the late 1970s and early 1980s was the City and Guilds Creative Basketmaking course and its teacher at the time, Barbara Maynard......

.......Anyone who new Barbara will remember that she was passionate about basketmaking and chair caning, and absolutely determined that the City and Guilds course, and the Basketmakers' Association, would survive and expand, so anyone that she came across who showed any ability at all was immediatly subjected to relentless pressure to enrol for the course......

......At the time Barbara felt very strongly that basket making in Britain could be revitalised, but only if it was accompanied by 'good design'. I am not sure that Barbara knew herself what form that good design would come in, and I'm not sure that she would approve of what has emerged as contemporary basketmaking in Britain, but she also disapproved of Alastair (Heseltine) and David (Drew), who she felt were just doing traditional willow work, and she was not at all keen on the sort of work that was emerging in America under the influence of people like Ed Rossbach, a textile teacher, designer and artist, He wrote a number of books. including Baskets as Textile Art......."

So with such fascinating history (and shall we say controversial opinions!) and cross references of makers contemporary and traditional I feel honoured to be the safekeeper of the Basketmakers' Associations' Barbara Maynard Challenge Cup for the coming year.

Below details of my winning shoulder basket made from Reedmace (Typha latifolia) , Lime bast and Taro root braided and stitched in the special Mediterranean 'inter-digitated' stitching technique.


Baskets from Mexico

If your passing through Barcelona this summer it's worth having a look at the small but well selected exhibition 'La creacion en el arte popular mexicano' at the Centre d'Artesania Catalunya. Alongside textiles, ceramics and metalwork there are some beautiful baskets made with a variety of natural fibres. Exhibition continues until the 4th September 2016.

Above: Tortilla Case, plaited palm by Teresa Perez Marquez from San Luis Amatlan, Oaxaca

Above & below: set of baskets for tortilla and shelling maize in liana stems, by Victor Manuel Lopez Rodriguez from Ocosingo, Chiapas

Above & below: basket, Romerillo twigs, by Teodulo Flores Vilchis, Tenancingo, Estado de Mexico

Above & below: bread basket in Sotol palm by Felipe Hernandez Camacho from El Carmen, Tequexquitla, Tlaxcala


'Cortines' project underway...

In March 2016 we started our two year project exploring the traditions and techniques of Cortines or fly screens in Catalonia. Conceived by Monica Guilera and myself as a public art project working in collaboration with a team of makers, students and artists we will work on creating a collection of contemporary curtains that will be exhibited outdoors in the doorways of Mas de Barberans during the summer of 2017.

The project is coordinated by the Museu de la Pauma in Mas de Barberans and sponsored by a host of public bodies - please see our dedicated web page for more details: Cortines: Dividing Spaces

During our first group sessions we looked at variety of natural and hand made objects with interesting and contrasting linear elements - this provided the starting point for painting and drawing experimentation. Over the coming months we will look at a variety of traditional and contemporary making techniques that will lead us on to our curtain designs.

During the project we will be identifying and harvesting local plant materials that can be used for a variety making techniques and collaborating with the members of the local palm weaving group Art Pauma.

Further information about the project may be found on the project website: Cortines: Dividing Spaces.


Hobby-Horses for Lolland

Minehead Hobby Horse circa 1900, c/o The Museum of Somerset

We are just home from our third contribution to sculpture projects in the grounds of Reventlow Museet on the Danish island of Lolland. The former home of  Danish statesman and social reformer C.D.F Reventlow the house is set in beautiful grounds which this year is home to the sculpture trail for adults and especially children 'Tur i Tiden' (tour in time) curated by the basketmakers and project curators Jette Mellgren and Jan Johansen. The Reventlow estate was formerly the home of a long tradition of horse breeding in the academic horse riding tradition and this provided us - myself and Monica Guilera - with the starting point for our contribution. Combining this local reference with inspirations from the hobby horse folk tradition widespread across Europe, we created a selection of Hobby Horses for visiting children and parents to take out for a ride. There are lots of other interactive works on the trail too so well worth a visit, continues until November.

In 2013 and 2014 we contributed the 'TheWrong Bats', 'Little Fields' and 'View Finders' to the sculpture projects at Reventlow.


of ladders...

'Skyladder' April 2011, 'Between Sea & Sky', Stige Ø, Odense, Denmark

Hazel ladders at the old studio, October 2011

'Skyladder' April 2011, 'Between Sea & Sky', Stige Ø, Odense, Denmark

'Ladder-rack' November 2010, Quay Arts, Isle of Wight, UK.

Hazel ladders on paintings, studio work in progress, January 2012.

Vine Ladders - in the kitchen, November 2013.

Vine Ladders, March 2013

Hazel frame for 'Invisible Pathways' at Briddlesford Lodge Farm, November 2014


Join me on the little island of Lyø














Over the coming weeks I have nice schedule of workshops and events coming up - one of the highlights will be teaching on the beautiful Danish island of Lyø - a neighbour of Bjørnø an island that I have taught summer schools on over the last couple of years. The course still has some places so best book soon if you are interested in a week of harvesting, fibre processing and making with a variety of techniques. The full workshop description is as follows:

Finding Fibres

Join artist and basketmaker Tim Johnson’s ‘Finding Fibres’ workshop on the beautiful island of Lyø, Denmark, during the the ‘Focus on Basketry’ Summer School, 3rd – 8th July 2016. Tim’s workshop will focus on finding, harvesting and processing a wide variety of natural materials from the island landscape of  Lyø. Many species of rushes, sedges and grasses alongside barks and plant stems can be used to create bags, baskets and sculptural forms using a variety of traditional techniques. During the week will explores rope and string making, flexable structures with looping and knotting, twining and braiding and the possibilities offered by combining soft and rigid materials.

Bring along your own tools and perhaps a camera and notebook and we will look to see what we can find, gather and create. See you in Lyø!

Booking details and prices can be found on the English and Danish website here: ‘Focus on Basketry’ Summer School.

Email me 'here' if you have any queries or would like further details, see you there!