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:

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:

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.sommerhø


´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....


First prize in the VII Certamen Internacional de las Fibras Vegetales 2013 

I'm delighted and honoured to have won First prize in the Contemporary Category of the VII Certamen Internacional de las Fibras Vegetales 2013 at the Museu de la Pauma de Mas de Barberans, Catalonia, Spain. My winning artwork is one of my recent series of 'Mountain Bows' first shown in my current exhibition 'I am here now' at the An Grianan Theatre, Letterkenny, Co.Donegal, Ireland. I entered two 'Mountain Bows' into the competition one using materials gathered in Donegal and the other winning piece with materials gathered in the Els Ports National Park surrounding Mas de Barberans combined with other typical Spanish basketry materials.

This is my second entrance to this exhibition and also my second win! - having won the V Certamen Internacional de las Fibras Vegetales 2011 with my basket 'Spiky Vessel'. I am happy to be part of next years jury and look forward to seeing everyones excellent work - do consider bringing or sending your work for the 2014 competition - it will form an excellent exhibition over the weekend of the basketry and plant fibres festival in a beautiful venue and gives many people the opportunity to see diverse work both traditional and contemporary. Further details from the Museu de la Pauma website next spring.

The winning basket of the traditional category this year is a beautiful willow Baskodden - a Sardine measure basket from Brittany by the superb French maker François Desplanches.

'Mountain Bow - Els Ports´

July 2013, Agave leaves, Evergreen Oak & Olive Twigs, Canya, Esparto Grass, Willow and Copper Wire

'Mountain Bow - Els Ports'

'Mountain Bow - Els Ports´- detail

'Mountain Bow - Hille of Donegal´

July 2013, Birch twigs, Butterbur, Rattan, Willow and Copper Wire.

'Mountain Bow - Hills of Donegal´- Detail



An Cosan Glas Sculpture Trail, Magheraroarty, Co.Donegal

So much to say about this amazing project and spectacular event with many hundreds of visitors over two evenings in July, An Cosan Glas are an amazing team coming up to their 20th anniversary next year, now I can only share a few pictures in my new gallery here: 'The Hills of Donegal' and just to say I feel honoured to have been part of it all . Thankyou.


Læ & Leben, Lolland, April 2013

I'm bit by bit getting pictures up online from the many exciting projects this year - here is a new collection from the project in Lolland in April and still on show till the 30th September: Læ & Leben, Lolland, Denmark, April 2013

All the artist involved and links can be seen on the previous post about this project: Forthcoming project - Læ & Leben, Lolland, Denmark, May-Sept 2013.

Since we were over making the project in April the seasons have progressed and our 'Wrongbats' are beginning to be nicely concealed in amongst the foliage of the giant Beech tree that we selected for them to roost in. Thankyou to my good friend Per-Olof Johansson and Marianne Petersen for sending over some pictures of them during June.

Our 'Little Fields' are doing well too with lots of long grass and buttercups growing up through our weaving - it will be interesting to see it slowly decay away into the meadow making 'fairy ring' like shadows on the ground.



'I am here now' Landscape Works 1993-2013

I've just created a new website gallery documenting my current exhibition at the An Grianan Theatre in Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland:  'I am here now' Landscape Works 1993-2013. The exhibition brings together drawings, collages, baskets, photographs and 'stickworks' made over a twenty year period concerning landscape themes and our relationship to it. The exhibition is part of the Earagail Arts Festival and I've been lucky to have the curatorial and technical support of the fantastic Seamus Quinn of Artworks. Thankyou to everyone who made it possible!

Based around the key work of the show above - a large photo montage, 'I am here now' 2003-2013, the exhibition brings together for the first time a collection of works that have been made in diverse locations around the globe. The photo montage depicts both the harvesting of natural materials for basket making and my intent to make the declaration ‘I am here now’ - at this place - at this moment.

During the first week of the exhibition I worked in the gallery space using a harvest of Birch sticks that we came upon at 9am on the first day of the install being trimmed from a nearby roundabout - couldn't have been better timing! Working around the idea of 'mountains' - their physical and vertical presence and dominance in so many landscapes that fascinate me - I developed the start of a new body of work - 'The Hills of Donegal' in a variety of media.

More to follow shortly from my trip to Donegal including the adventures of SpAce Juck and the amazing An Cosan Glas project at Magheraroarty.

'The Hills of Donegal' collages, July 2013

'The Hills of Donegal - Hill twigs' July 2013

'The Hills of Donegal - Mountain Bow' July 2013


Earagail Arts Festival Residency under way.....

So the exhibition 'I am here now' is up, opened and looking well and I'm looking forward to working in the gallery space over the coming week as well as taking some harvesting trips around Donegal. I'll have some pictures soon once I find a way of glueing the mirror back inside my camera - fallen out after hundreds of thousands of shutter actions - mmm bad timing!

I'll be making some new pieces using whatever I can find this week and I had a great first catch last Wednesday on the morning after my arrival - a great pile of Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis jacquemontii) on the roundabout near to the gallery - being clipped to make clear views for the CCTV! Thanks to tree surgeon Colin Farrell for allowing me to help myself and to my good friend Seamus Quinn of Artworks for helping me haul the sticks up through the morning traffic!

Last week I made a new series of collages entitled 'The Hills of Donegal' using book endpapers salvaged from my last project with Ryde library depicting mountainscapes and Ill be working further with this theme over the coming weeks and months. Ever since my Highland Craft Residency in 2005 I have been fascinated by the idea or symbol of mountains and different ways of depicting them - some woven examples of these ideas can be seen in this gallery : Baskets and other Weavings.

'The Hills of Donegal' - work in progress.


'I am here now' 

Opening tomorrow afternoon at the An Grianan Theatre, Letterkenny, County Donegal my new exhibition 'I am here now' brings together a collection of work exploring themes of exploring the landscape and the notion of being present, alive and here - wherever here is at a particular moment. I am enjoying so much returning to Donegal after nearly 15 years away and its a joy to both catch up with many old friends and to present a collection of my work that has evolved over those 15 years. If you get a chance to pop by we are kicking off at 4.30 so join us for a nice cup of tea!

Above and below images from a series of photographs exhibited for the first time in this exhibition, the series entitled 'I am here now' depicts my hands in various locations holding materials and declaring my presence in a moment in time. This series started around 2003 in the West Highlands of Scotland and I have been adding to the series occasionally ever since. Alongside these photographs I'll be showing my 'Walking Books', 'Boat Baskets', large bamboo wall drawings and a variety of additional pieces that I will be adding to over my making residency in the theatre gallery next week. Come by and see me at work in the gallery and I'll be happy to show you what I'm up to.


Reading Spaces - Artist in Residence with Ryde Arts Festival, June 2013

I'm busy these weeks with an exciting project in my home town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight, as part of Ryde Arts Festival I'm working alongside fellow maker Jonathan Ward to create a number of installations and sculptures in the town's public library celebrating the festival theme of books and reading. We are just under way and a new blog started right here: Reading Spaces. I'll be working on a number of 'sculpture' tables that will mingle with the libraries regular furniture using all kinds of recycled materials including a great pile of redundant library books.


New Work for Hackwood Arts Festival 2013

Just finished six new wall pieces to be shown next weekend at the Hackwood Art Festival near Basingstoke - I don't want to show too much now until they have been installed in the show - but I'm feeling excited about this new collection!

It will be a great event with lots to see and workshops all weekend. This week I'll be working alongside Monica Guilera Subirana creating an installation with local schools and you can come along and join in over the weekend or try your hand at a variety of basketmaking sessions, see you there!

Some suitably fuzzy photos of work in progress to keep you guessing....