NEW SPIRALS exhibition at the Höyry Gallery, Korpilahti, Finland

Above: 'Atoll' 2016, Tim Johnson, bamboo, sisal twine, recycled window blind.

Opening at the start of April a new exhibition 'NEW SPIRALS' by the always challenging and inspiring group of Finnish contemporary basketmakers - Anna-Maria Väätäinen, Anelma Savolainen, Minna Koskinen, and Raija Manninen at the Höyry Gallery in the town of Korpilahti near Jyvaskyla in central Finland. As a special addition to the group - myself and Monica Guilera Subirana have been invited as guests and will have three works each in the exhibition. Further photos to follow once the exhibition is open!

More gallery details here: Höyry Gallery

NEW SPIRALS, 2nd 24th April 2016

Below: 'Green Nansa' 2016, Monica Guilera Subirana, willow & twine.


Green from the Get Go: International Contemporary Basketmakers at the Morris Museum, NJ, USA

Above: Tim Johnson 'keeping time' basket 2016, combed reedmace.

Opening this week is the exhibition Green from the Get Go: International Contemporary Basketmakers at the Morris Museum, Morristown, New Jersey, USA. I'm delighted to have several new baskets in the exhibition alongside works by some of the best contemporary basketmakers around the world including such luminaries as Ed Rossbach, John McQueen, Gyöngy Laky and Dorothy Gill Barnes from the US, Dail Behennah, Lizzie Farey and Chris Drury from the UK, Jane Balsgaard  and Birigit Birkkjaer from Denmark, Markku Kosonen from Finland and Hisako Sekijima and Noriko Takamiya from Japan. The exhibition runs from March 19th to June 26th 2016 and opening times can be found on the Morris Museum website.

Curated by Jane Milosch of the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, former curator of the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum and Rhonda Brown and Tom Grotta of browngrotta arts the exhibition brings together makers work that reflects their close relationship with the natural world both as a source of materials and inspiration. The curators state:

"Throughout history, artists and craftspeople have been highly attuned to the beauty and resources of the natural world, whether depicting a pristine landscape, untouched by man, or harvesting plants and minerals for pigments and brushes. Sustainability is a natural part of their design and craft process. Green from the Get Go will include more than 70 works by artists from Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, Scandinavia and the US, featuring innovators in the genre of 20th-century art basketry as well as emerging talents. These artists take their inspiration from nature and the history of basketry. Their work reveals a heightened sensitivity to the physicality of materials, one that honors the stewardship of nature by their choice and use of materials."

More information and a full list of makers can be found on the browngrotta arts website.

Above: Tim Johnson 'keeping time' basket 2016, reedmace.

Below: Tim Johnson 'keeping time' basket 2016, salt rush.


'Influence and Evolution: Fiber Sculpture…then and now' at browngrotta arts

A selection of my 'keeping time' baskets are currently on show in the exhibition Influence and Evolution: Fiber Sculpture…then and now at browngrotta arts, Wilton, Connecticut, USA. I was delighted to be invited last November to create new work for this special survey exhibition placing fibre works by leading practitioners from the 1960s pivotal to the evolution of the contemporary basketmaking and fibre art movement alongside the generation born in the 60s, including myself, that have been influenced by these makers. On browngrotta arts' arttextstyle blog my early discovery of Ed Rossbach's work is quoted:

“I am more than happy to admit the influence of makers such as Ed Rossbach, whose book, The New Basketry, I bought for the mighty sum of £1.50 when I was still a schoolboy in the 80s,” Johnson says. “While for many years the influence did not emerge in my work and I did not understand how to work with basketry techniques and materials, when I eventually started making baskets it was like coming home to the work I had always wanted to make.”

As I have just returned from a six week research and teaching trip to Australia (blog posts about the trip here soon) unfortunately I'm unable to visit the exhibition, it would certainly be a treat to see my baskets alongside works by such luminaries as Ed Rossbach, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Sheila Hicks, Masakazu Kobayashi, Lenore Tawney and Luba Krejci among many others.

My 'keeping time' baskets were first exhibited in the 2007 exhibition 'East Weaves West', curated by Mary Butcher, that brought together the work of makers from the United Kingdom and Japan. I have since exhibited different baskets of the series in a variety of venues in the UK and Europe including the piece 'Spiky Vessel' that won first prize in the contemporary category of the V International Contest of Plant Fibres at Museu de la Pauma in Mas de Barberans in Cataluña, Spain.

My 'keeping time' baskets are an evolving series, in these works I am interested in the play between vessel and surface, the particular qualities of different plant materials and the contrast of outside volume and contained space. Working on each of these baskets over several days, the careful manipulation of material - be it different kinds of rushes, grasses or flowering plants, creates different possibilities to articulate the transition from outside to inside. The contrasting textures of the apparently chaotic exterior and the carefuly woven interior creates a dialogue that excites me and pushes me forward in its exploration.

If you are interested in purchasing one of these baskets please contact browngrotta arts through my artist page here: Tim Johnson @ browngrotta arts


'Invisible Pathways' at Hop Kilns Heritage Centre

Last November I spent several weeks exploring the pastures, cow tracks, streams and pathways that make up Briddlesford Lodge Farm on the Isle of Wight.

As the farms first Artist in Residence I was invited to create the inaugural exhibition in the newly restored and architecturally re-designed Hop Kilns Heritage Centre. Using a variety of materials gathered on the farm including Butcher's Broom, Hazel, Honeysuckle, cow muck and bailer twine I created a series of suspended panels that investigated the layered history of the land's usage and geography. Black bailer twine is embroidered mapping out fields and pathways, twilled cane picks up patterns from an old winnowing fan in the heritage centre's collection and Ash twigs reference the hedgerows, hurdles and coppiceing traditions of the island.

The exhibition is now finished but some of the work will be kept on site to join the centre's collection, two further artist residencies and exhibitions will take place over the coming year.

Here's a selection of photographs documenting the project and exhibition here: 'Invisible Pathways' at The Hop Kilns Heritage Centre at Briddlesford Lodge Farm.

Thanks to Julian Winslow for the group photo of everyone involved in front of the old kilns.


Workshop updates....

Above - stitching a braided rush mat during a workshop in Fessenheim, Alsace, France, June 2014

I've been adding some upcoming workshops to my Workshops and Events page, following on from my recent post about the January twining workshop at the Odense Aftenskole I'll be teaching a couple of braiding workshops at the Museu de la Pauma in Mas de Barberans on the 1st of November and a longer more in depth workshop at West Dean College near Chichester from the 22nd to 25th January. Gathering inspiration from traditional English rush Frails and the Palm and Esparto braiding techniques of Spain I have been exploring lots of variations, patterns and textures created by combining different bundle numbers and material combinations. Expect to get to grips with 5s, 7s and 9s before you then then stitch together your own baskets and pockets.

Above and below: participants in my rush braiding workshop at the basketry festival and market in Bouxurulles, France, May 2014

Above and below: Braiders by the sea! - Weaving by the Sea 2014, Vilanova i la Geltru, Spain.


'Boat baskets' home from Frugtkurve Exhibition

My 'Boat baskets' have recently returned home from the 'Frugtkurve' exhibition in the Frilandmuseet in Maribo on the Danish island of Lolland. While I didn't get over to see this exhibition I'm sure it looked great with such a nice selection of baskets from makers living in Denmark, Spain, France, Uganda and the UK. Curated by Danish basketmaker Jette Mellgren, the exhibition celebrated the fruit growing traditions of the Maribo district.


Klaus Titze, Helle Baslund, Gitte Kjær Hansen, Annemette Hjørnholm and Jette Mellgren from Denmark
Tim Johnson from England
David Drew from France
Carlos Fontales, Lluis Grau and Monica Guilera from Spain
Simone Simons from Spain/Holland
Ester Estang and Tom Obote from Uganda

Some of my words accompanying my baskets in this exhibition:

This trio of  ‘Boat Baskets’ forms part of an ongoing series first developed when I learnt to weave two willow rods in a particular way with a retired fisherman on the Isle of Wight in 2005. Weaving ‘the breed’ holds together cleft willow rods very tightly and through trial and error I have developed this boat like form that I hope is both elegant and functional. These baskets offer me the possibility of combining two aspects of my creative practice – the harvesting and processing of a wide variety of natural materials and the use of colour and contrast that stems from my first artistic passion as a painter.

In this selection we can see cultivated willows and wild materials gathered in Norway, Australia, Spain and on the Isle of Wight. They have been cut and dried; some have been beaten, scraped, combed, spun, cooked or dyed. Developing a closer relationship with specific plants and harvesting places is an enriching experience and I hope some of my enjoyment and satisfaction in their making is transmitted to those who use them.

Tim Johnson. June 2014

Willow – large year old willow rods from my withy bed are cleft three ways and shaved down to my required thickness on a shavehorse, the bark is peeled away and woven back into the baskets. Barks from different species give different textures.

Juniper and Cedar bark are harvested at the right season and contrast textures with the willow bark.

Hair Moss – carefully gathered in Norwegian forests this fine fibre has been used for thousands of years.

Galingale – an uncommon species of rush is beaten and combed.

Soft Rush is processed and spun into cordage.

Date Palm – flower stems and leaflets give very different textures.

King Palm – a giant leaf sheath from this Australian species gives ribbed textures.

Cordyline – an Australian species gathered from my local botanic garden

Below - a selection of 'Boat Baskets' in my solo exhibition 'I am here now', Landscape Works 1993 - 2013 part of the Earagail Arts Festival 2013 in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, Ireland


Rush Twining and Fishtrap technique workshops - off to Denmark in January.....

Details are now confirmed for my next basketmaking workshop in Denmark at the award winning Odense Aftenskole next January. Hosted by our good friends Jan Johansen and Jette Mellgren I will be teaching Rush twining techniques while my partner Monica Guilera will be teaching Mediterranean Nansa Fishtrap technique. Booking through the Odense Aftenskole website.

Course details:

Twined Rush Basketmaking with Tim Johnson

17th and 18th January 2015

Twining is a large family of weaving techniques that can be found around the world in many cultures, with archaelogical evidence from at least 9300 BC it is also one of the most ancient. Tim Johnson has been practising and researching these techniques over several years and enjoys the wide variety of textures and patterns that can be created.

Working with Rush and other soft materials we will explore various twining techniques including alternate pair twining and the special patterns created by chasing and countering weaving pairs. Expect to make one or two baskets, mats or wall pieces.

Language of the course will be English.

Beginners and more advanced basketmakers welcome.

Mediterranean Nansa Fish Trap Technique with Mònica Guilera

17th and 18th January 2015

The Mediterranean is home to a beautiful and distinctive technique of weaving used by fishermen to make a variety of fishing baskets and traps. In Catalonia ‘Nansa’ fishtraps were made in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the kind of fish they wanted to catch, the traps were usually made in the winter with a very tough kind of rush (Juncus acutus) as well as split cane (Arundo donax) and olive stems.

In this workshop you will learn to make a ‘cofe’, a round basket that was used to place the fishing lines and hooks in preparation for line fishing.  This basket will give you a good grounding in this very special technique based on triangles and you will with willow in combination with a variety of colourful threads and strings.

Languages of the course will be English, Spanish or French.

Beginners and more advanced basketmakers welcome.


'View Finders'

As I prepare for forthcoming projects this autumn - first a little catching up with some over the past year.

'View Finders' is a series of woven frames created by myself and my partner Monica Guilera as part of the outdoor sculpture project 'NATUR-lighed' celebrating the Romantic period landscaping of Reventlow Park on the island of Lolland, Denmark.

The project was curated and coordinated by Jette Mellgren and Jan Johansen and included the following participants: Spencer Jenkins (UK), Karin van der Molen (NL), Joan Farré Oliver & Carlos Fontales (Sp), Tim Johnson (UK) & Monica Guilera (Sp) and from Denmark Britt Smelvær, Palle Lindau & Anne Højstrup, Kristoffer & Mette Glyholt, Klaus Titze and Jan Johansen & Jette Mellgren.

Full gallery of our work here : 'Viewfinders' and more information on curator Jette Mellgren's blog: 'NATUR-lighed'.

View Finders

NATUR-lighed 15th May - 15th September, Reventlow Park, Lolland, Denmark

During the 18th century Reventlow Park was designed under the influence of the Romantic movement dictating what was understood as an ideal picturesque landscape. Referencing the history of landscape design, painting and photography this series of woven willow and timber structures provide alternative possibilities to framing the changing landscape through the hours of the day and seasons of the year.

The weaving technique of these pieces has been inspired by an agricultural tool traditionally used in the northern half of Spain, dragged behind a horse the roughly made fence like panel would break up the soil after ploughing.



Choosing the wrong stick…Ports i Mans Residency














Work is picking up pace as we are approaching the culmination of a years residency based in Mas de Barberans, southern Catalonia - work is being delivered, plinths constructed, design work drawn up and websites edited. I wrote the article below for The Basketmakers' Association Newsletter which tells part of the story so far - we also have a blog in progress and a special dedicated project website - lots more to come!

Choosing the wrong stick… Ports i Mans Residency

The Basketmaker' Association Newsletter No 149, May 2014

Tim Johnson and Mònica Guilera are currently basketmakers in residence with the Museu de la Pauma (Palm Basketry Museum) in Mas de Barberans and the surrounding mountainous national park ‘Parc Natural dels Ports’ in southern Catalonia, Spain.

Tim writes the following of work in progress:

We proposed an idea to the Museu de la Pauma just over a year ago – that we would like to explore the variety of natural materials in the environs of the village of Mas de Barberans, to work with those materials over the four seasons of a year, to make a body of new work and then present it in an exhibition at the end of the project and coinciding with the excellent annual fair of basketry and vegetable fibres in August ‘la Fira de les Fibres Vegetals’. We were delighted to have our project accepted and co-funded by the museum and the Els Ports national park whose mountains loom over the village.

As we are learning over our frequent visits Mas de Barberans is a special place, one of the joys of a project like this is the familiarity with place and people that evolves over time, it is nice to be recognised in Mònica’s bright orange van as we explore and harvest. Set between a vast plain, known locally as ‘the sea of olives’ - due to its leafy waves set in motion by the fierce winds that come through the year and scatter branches and roof tiles crashing to the ground, and the high mountains of Els Ports, the village is a perfect base. Repeated visits to special spots brings deeper knowledge and appreciation of the variety of plants and wildlife in the area, endless olive groves interspersed with terraced almond trees and huge dark green carob trees are divided by the fascinating barrancs – dry river beds that flood after easterly winter storms. Agriculture gives way to scrubby forest, pine, box and juniper then upwards to mountain pastures with grazing Ibex and frequent Griffon Vultures wheeling overhead.

Quickly as we harvest, photograph, experiment, identify, walk, discuss – we realise we have time enough only to sample the huge variety of materials available, one could spend years here learning and making. Traditional basketmakers in this region today use primarily the European Fan Palm (Pauma and Palmito in Catalan and Spanish) to make a wide variety of beautifully braided and stitched baskets, the Museu de la Pauma has a good collection of examples and frequent contextual exhibitions telling the story of the palm weaving tradition. Mas de Barberans is still home to several palm weavers, some of whom form the collective ‘Art Pauma’ and who made many of the museum’s exhibits.

As we work with the plants of the Ports – olive and oleander, black oranges and arundo cane, Sarga willow (Salix eleagnos), iris and asphodel – we discover all these plants demand different handling, we gather presuming we can find a way to make them work for us – how will they be in a month’s time? We also have different ideas and approaches – Mònica working from the diverse Catalan tradition combining willow and split arundo cane and myself combining tradition and experimentation - I often seem to be picking the wrong sticks! Of course the beautiful straight olive sun shoots are perfect for Mònica’s weaving but those spindly branchy lengths grab my attention and find their way into a piece and maybe into the exhibition – let’s see!

Tim and Monica are documenting the Ports i Mans residency here: portsimans.blogspot.co.uk

The exhibition will open during the annual ‘La Fira de les Fibres Vegetals’, 2nd and 3rd August 2014 and will run for several months at the Museu de la Pauma:  www.cdrmuseudelapauma.cat

There is an annual basketry contest (certamen) with traditional and contemporary categories and significant cash prizes over the weekend of the fair, this is open to international entries and details can be found on the museum website here: VIIIè Certamen Internacional de les Fibres Vegetals


off to MERL....

Today I'm heading off to Reading - returning to the town where I studied Fine Art in the 80's - my purpose to catch up with old friends and spend a couple of days researching in the fantastic collections of the Museum of English Rural Life.

I last visited when I was working on a project researching the Isle of Wight Lobster Pot and Basketmaking Tradition to see some related pieces and research papers by Dorothy Wright, that project developed into an exhibition at Ventnor Botanic Garden in 2005 and continues to influence my making today.

Above: The Isle of Wight Lobster Pot and Basketmaking Tradition, exhibition curated by Tim Johnson at Ventnor Botanic Garden 2005

Lots of interesting work has been carried out at the museum recently with the Stakeholders Project being featured on the Museum's blog. This Saturday the museum will be overrun with basketmakers as the annual summer meeting of the Basketmakers' Association will be hosted there and we will hear and see all about the museums important collections.

Below: a small part of the basket collection at The Museum of English Rural Life, Reading


Bjørnø Summer Nature High School, 29th June - 4th July

Very happy to be finding my way to the tiny Danish island of Bjørnø later next week to teach at the Bjørnø Summer Nature High School, 29th June - 4th July. The course will be all about exploring and making, working with available materials and finding our own creative ways with new and familiar materials. Depending on what materials are available we'll be dipping into looping, braiding, twining, coiling, assemblage and a variety of my own contemporary techniques.

Last couple of places available! : www.sommerhøjskolen.dk


´GreenArt´ - work now installed

The GreenArt project curated by Jette Mellgren in Odense, Denmark is now finished and installed after a week of busyness and problem solving. The work will now be on show until October in the Farvergården through Brandts Passage in Odense town centre. My work can be seen alongside sculptures by Jan Johansen, Jette Mellgren and Karin van der Molen in different places around the square. Some film of the project can be seen here: GreenArt in Farvergården

July update - new project gallery here: 'three species'




'GreenArt' - work in the garden

Yesterday we were busily working on our pieces for 'GreenArt' before they are transported to the Odense city centre location this morning, I'll be working on the old dyehouse rooftop creating new pieces and adapting the three pieces already started.Must dash.....

July update - new project gallery here: 'three species'



'GreenArt' - work at the dyehouse

Yesterday we took some of our works for 'GreenArt' to the Odense city centre location to get a sense of scale and appropriateness of our pieces to location, from Tuesday we'll be making on site but today we work together in Jan and Jette's sunny garden. I'm happy with my starting point - making in white willow and painted timber for the rooftops of the dyehouse - more to follow day by day.

July update - new project gallery here: 'three species'



Finding lines - smoke and scribbles

As work from last years sculpture trail in Reventlow Park on the Danish island of Lolland is dismantled and burnt, new work is begun on another ambitious outdoor project 'Green Art' curated by Jette Mellgren. This week, working alongside Karin van der Molen (NL), Jan Johansen and Jette Mellgren (DK) I'll be creating a new series of large scale sculptures that will be installed until the end of September in the heart of the city of Odense. As we all negotiate varying complexities of architecture - developing scale, themes and practicalities of hoisting and attaching, it's fascinating to imagine and then see how all our works are developing in different ways. More photos this week as the work progresses.....

July update - new project gallery here: 'three species'

My work just begun combining timber and willow.

Jette Mellgren untangling before the new work begins.

Jan Johansen

Karin van der Molen


what's what when?

I have a busy schedule over the coming months and have just created a new page here: workshops & events diary to keep tabs on it all - I hope you can come and join me to see some of the exhibitions, sculpture trails, markets and teaching events that I'll be involved in.

Highlights include:

Summerschools: Bjørnø in Denmark and Westdean and Quay Arts in the UK.

Exhibitions in Mas de Barberans, Spain and Denmark

Outdoor Sculpture projects in Lolland and Odense, Denmark and Mas de Barberans, Spain

Basketmaking markets in Bouxourelles, Mas de Barberans and Salt

.....and not forgetting our very own autumn school 'Weaving by the Sea' in Vilanova I la Geltru near Barcelona.

Finally I'm delighted to be heading off to Australia in 2015 to teach in Ballarat and am currently foraging for exhibition, residency, research and teaching opportunities to accompany the Fibre Arts Australia event. If you would like to discuss any ideas or workshop possibilities do be in touch!



pebbles, pebbles, pebbles.....

Funny how things come round - when materials , objects, ideas inspire - they can carry on inspiring for years on end! I've been looking and working with pebbles for years now - some of my collection I feel I know personally - I know exactly where they are from..... the stripy one from Padstow, the black one from Ayr, the green marbled one from Fetlar and the sparkly mica one from the Spey.....

I don't for a moment think I am alone in this - pebbles have had meaning since early man bound one onto a cleft stick and made his first stone axe. I'm in good company too - I always remember seeing the spiral of beautiful rounded stones arranged on a table by Jim Ede at Kettle's Yard in Cambridge while I was still an art student - wondering - is it a sculpture? are they just pebbles? does it matter?

Then of course there is John Cage - but that's another blog story.....

During my residency with the Highland Council in Kingussie High School in 2005 I gathered pebbles of all sizes from the River Spey near to the school, with pupils we selected and drew, discussed and discovered. Some pebbles were rolled around the floor covered in pigment, others became features of one of my 'Shifting Ground' floor drawings, others were kept and bound with willow and stay with me now awaiting new projects and outings.

In a couple of weeks I'll be showing how to wrap bottles and jam jars for functional use - but I love to wrap pebbles in twined rush too - so I hope the students will bring nice ones along to the course at Jubilee stores.


Bring a bottle! Rushwork course at Quay Arts.

Bring a Bottle! places are going quickly for my two day rushwork course at Quay Arts 29th & 30th March 2014. Bring along your own bottles, vases, pebbles and flasks to make beautiful, functional and decorative covers to help protect and insulate.

Learn simple twining, openwork, braidweave and alternate pair countered twining - suitable for beginners and more advanced alike....

Booking here: Quay Arts Box Office



Weaving by the Sea 2014.....

It's been a long winter and I've hardly had a moment to think since last September - so apologies for the absence! Lots of interesting things going on with loads of new work to show you, workshops coming up and exhibitions on their way - so to kick off how about a little basketmaking whilst enjoying the warmth of a sea breeze and the prospect of a swim or walk on the beach after siesta?......

This was Weaving by the Sea 2013 in Vilanova I la Geltru, Catalonia - look at all the beautiful makings of the busy students in my new gallery here: Weaving by the Sea, Vilanova I la Geltru, Catalonia 2013

But now we can look forward to Weaving by the Sea 2014!

Bookings are rolling in for next September so don't hang around too long - full details on the dedicated  'Weaving by the Sea 2014' blogspot.

24th - 26th September 2014
Catalan Basketmaking with Mònica Guilera
Wood & Weaving - exploring handles & bases with Mai Hvid Jørgensen

Braid & Stitch Mediterranean Plant Materials with Tim Johnson
Further details can be found here: Workshop Details 2014 

28th - 30th September 2014
Mediterranean Nansa Fish Trap Technique with Mònica Guilera
Catalan basket with a Twist with Mai Hvid Jørgensen
Finding Freedom - Contemporary Basketmaking with Tim Johnson 
Further details can be found here: Workshop Details 2014  
See you there!
More soon.....






Off to Lichtenfels.........

Getting ready for my first visit to Lichtenfels in southern Germany both to teach at the State Vocational School of Basketmaking and Design and then to have a stand at the annual Korbmarket / Basket fair on the 14th & 15th September - perhaps the largest event of it's kind in Europe....