Getting ready for the annual Christmas Craft Fair - Wayzgoose 2012

I'm making for the annual Wayzgoose do at Jubilee stores - a great festive event and perfect place to find those perfect Christmas presents. I'll be showing some this years new 'Boat Baskets' made in France and Spain and a selection of weavings, wall pieces and Christmas decorations made with Rush, Esparto Grass, Willow bark and all kinds of beautiful sticks! see you there.....

Boat Baskets 2012

Split willow with diverse materials (palm stems, oat straw, iris leaf string, willow bark etc)


Marsh Awards for Excellence in Gallery Education

This week I have been away at the engage International Conference 2012 in Cardiff to receive a Marsh Award for Excellence in Gallery Education. I'm delighted and honored to have received this award in recognition of my gallery education work at Quay Arts and in particular for my work on the large scale project that I worked on in July this year: 360° - A Panorama. More about the awards this year can be found here: Marsh Awards for Excellence in Gallery Education.

Of course many thanks are due to the hardworking education and exhibition teams at Quay Arts and especially Jacqui Cussack, without whom all of these creative projects would never have come to fruition.

Brian Marsh and three of the four 2012 winners, Angela Bruce, Tim Johnson and Becky Graham. Photographer: Alicia Bruce.


The Straw Family

Last Saturday I lead a workshop for the national campaign for drawing - 'The Big Draw' in the Learning Curve Gallery at Quay Arts on the Isle of Wight. Making huge drawings on the floor - based around the participant's bodies - young and old - we started thinking about all kinds of shapes, creatures and monsters. Taking the line off the paper we then wove together 'The Straw Family' using a couple of pairs of wellie boots for starters then working our way up with willow, string, bamboo and those traditional hobby craft paper straws.


First Prize in the Contemporary Category of the XV Fira Internacional Cistell - Basket Making Competition, Salt, Catalonia 2012

I have just returned home from this years International Basket Fair in Salt, Catalonia, having had a fantastic time and wonderful to see so many excellent makers all in one place. The fair is very well organised as a friendly outdoor celebration of our craft by the L'Associació Catalana de Cistellers i Cistelleres (Catalan Basketmakers Association) and the Salt Town Council.

I was honoured and very happy to have won First prize in the XV Fira Internacional Cistell Competition in the Contemporary Category for my newly created work entitled 'Woven Path - New Direction' made with my own home grown, split and painted Willow combined with Rush and Bailer Twine. The Contemporary Category this year was themed around pathways - a theme very close to my heart in much of my work exploring maps, journeys and networks.



Dan's Community Cart is on a roll!

I've just heard today that my friend Dan Robert's Community Cart is finished and out and about on the Isle of Wight at a local environmental 'Carbon Cycle' event. I've not seen the finished cart myself yet but you can see the beautifully crafted wheels that Dan has made here in Eccleston George's Gallery : Dan's Cart

You may remember Dan from his Amazing Wooden Bicycle Adventure and I helped out with this project weaving the large basket for the cart . Following the first weaving session in March I decided to let the half-green willow dry for a while to let it shrink and settle before the last rows of wailing and the border were made. Here you can see Dan sawing off the recycled plywood stakes ready for the willow border stakes to be inserted ......not a usual basketry technique but collaborations lead to interesting solutions!

Above - the willow stakes are inserted and ready for a string wrapped bundle border - inspired by an Isle of Wight fisherman's basket (see below) - perhaps the border being used for baited fish hooks to be lodged when out at sea. This border proved perfect for this cart as it will make a safe edge for children to climb in and out and hides away the potentially spiky stake ends from any hands pushing the loaded cart along.

Above the unusual fisherman's basket with it's 'primitive' but useful border also you can see it has been dipped in tar to protect it from salt water in common with Isle of Wight Shrimp Pots and also features evidence of a missing twisted willow handle and a length of rope stitched to the base to protect it on the boak deck.

Being late in the day we worked the border by candle light!


Rafal - Swimming Pool Shelter Project, Mas De Barberans, August 2012

During August I joined four basketmakers from the Catalan Basketmakers Association - Mònica Guilera, Carles Alcoy, Joan Farré Oliver and Josep Mercader, to work on a project together in Mas de Barberans, the week preceding the town's annual basketry fair. Our proposal was to create a large shelter from locally harvested materials beside the town's brand new swimming pool creating shade from the blazing sun of southern Catalonia.

Bare foot cane climbing!

Over the four days of the project we worked early and late - avoiding the hottest part of the day, we built the main structure from the large bamboo-like European Cane Arundo donax, the same stuff that bassoon and oboe reeds are made from - alongside fences, roofing panels, baskets, bee hives, toys and no doubt many other things. The combination of Cane and Willow and sometimes Olive branches is a distinctive feature of Catalan basketmaking. With this in mind working alongside the makers from the Catalan Association brought a great wealth of material knowledge to compliment my own ideas about the structure and form of the project.

Monica Guilera's Asparagus basket - winner of the VI Certamen Internacional Basketry Competition 2012 in the Museu de la Pauma Mas de Barberans, featuring Willow and split Cane. 

Over the first three days our shelter took form following various experiments, discussions - and of course the occasional refreshing swim in the pool - it's a tough job but someone has to do it! Cane is a very different material to Willow and Hazel - the materials I usually make similar structures with, it doesn't always do what you might expect and tends to split, crack or snap if placed under too much tension, however with practice it is a wonderfully hard, durable building material that can take on very elegant forms that we hope compliment the setting and local landscape.

The projects title 'Rafal' refers to a traditional Catalan shepherds shelter made up in the hills from whatever materials are available - a nice connection to our project and our desire to use materials that naturally fit into the landscape and have to be transported the minimum distance to be used.

Following the construction with Cane the local town council delivered a good supply of Olive branches to create a shade creating wall on one side of the shelter. These were threaded through the structure and sandwiched between canes to create easily attachable long bundles.

Antonio Rodríguez and myself hoisting an Olive sandwich! The final structure can be seen in my full website gallery here: 'Rafal', Swimming Pool Shelter Project

The last day of the project was a workshop for local makers and students to have a go at constructing a large split cane tunnel along the pathway to the pool and to assist with the Olive covering of the main shelter. Once again we were experimenting combining my 'birdweaving' techniques usually worked in willow but this time in split or cleaved Cane to make a finer material that can be worked in bundles - as long as you bend it the right way!

Our students had a great time and made a major contribution to finishing off the whole project in time for the weekends festivities and many visitors. A big thankyou to all the makers involved, the workshop participants, Mas De Barberans Town Council for supplying materials and the Museu de la Pauma Mas de Barberans who co-ordinated the whole project in advance with Mònica Guilera of the Catalan Basketmakers Association. Carles Alcoy and Joan Farré Oliver set up the split cane arches for the workshop tunnel.


360° - A Panorama 

Busy busy at Quay Arts this week and next!

New gallery here: 360° - A Panorama

More info here: Quay Arts


Three Woven Mats - Asante Sana Exhibition, Odense, Denmark 2012 

In January this year I made 3 large twined mats for an exhibition in Odense, Denmark curated by Jette Mellgren in response to a special basket from Uganda. The text below accompanied the work in the exhibition. The work may be seen in my new gallery Asante Sana Gallery and the exhibition catalogue is available online as a free download.

Three Woven Mats made in response to a Ugandan Dragonfly Basket.
Notes on the making process.

It's not everyday that a Ugandan Dragonfly basket arrives in your studio!

A beautifully made openwork vessel twined from stiff grass, the basket is both elegant and perfect in form and function - not that I am so familiar with Dragonfly gathering! In parts of Uganda women working in the fields collect Dragonflies in April and November, place them in these close necked baskets, stuff the opening with a bundle of grass to prevent them from escaping, and when enough have been gathered they are fried up with oil and spices to give a healthy snack similar to shrimps.

As a maker challenged to respond to this basket there are of course many choices to be made and possibilities that could be followed. The basket sat in my studio for several weeks among many others and amidst materials, tools and inspirations waited to 'talk' to me  - for an idea to come of how to start the making process. I looked at the basket and considered the possibilities of making woven dragonflies, of creating translucent wings, of things suspended and with the same airy lightness that the basket and its prey suggest.

However in the end I followed perhaps a more conservative path, to respond to material and technique rather than idea and function. As a basket maker originally trained as an artist this is perhaps a curious response, but one that for me makes complete sense at this moment. 2011 has been a year of great inspiration and many travels for me and at the end of it I have found a greater commitment to the craft of basket making and a resolution to immerse myself further in its many facets that have fascinated me since childhood.

So my response to create a series of three mats using the same making technique and more specifically the 'windmill' start at the base of the basket, as my starting point is the choice that I have made. Using different materials for each mat provided a fascinating insight into the ancient technique of twining and as each material had it’s own very specific qualities I was forced to re-think technique and aesthetic as I progressed. Each mat has it's own distinctive qualities and different details, I am delighted to have been given the chance to take part in this exhibition and learn so much in the process, I hope my fascination and enjoyment of this traditional Ugandan basket is evident in my finished work.

Tim Johnson January 2012


European Basketmaking Summer School, Quay Arts, August 2012

This August I'll be following up last summers successful Basketmaking Summer School at Quay Arts with a four day course gathering inspirations and materials from my travels over the past year or so. I have been lucky to travel recently to Norway, Denmark, Poland and Spain as well as within the UK teaching, making and researching and I hope to bring a little taste of these making traditions to the course. While I've not finalised the exact content yet expect to work with Esparto Grass, Split Chestnut, Hair Moss, Heather, Rush and a wide variety of home grown willows and locally gathered wild materials in a variety of techniques. I will have many baskets from my large collection on hand for inspiration and ideas and of course a good resource of books and a slide show or two.

Places are limited and are already booking up fast so don't delay if you are interested, see you in August I hope! More information and booking here: Summer School.



'The Bottle Project', for the Exhibition 'Linking' at the Nationaal Vlechtmuseum, Noordwolde

Over the past month or so I have been working with Mònica Guilera towards our collaborative piece 'The Bottle Project' to be exhibited in the forthcoming exhibition 'Linking' at the Nationaal Vlechtmuseum in Noordwolde in the Netherlands. This curated exhibition celebrating the centennial anniversary of the museum will bring together work from makers from all over Europe working with woven materials.

'The Bottle Project' was conceived by myself and Mònica as a way of 'Linking' our different approaches to basketmaking rooted in Catalan and English traditions and working in a wide variety of materials creating new combinations and both functional and more sculptural forms. We have wrapped, bound, woven and stitched diverse coverings for a collection of glass and ceramic bottles that will then be exhibited as a group. The exhibition opens on the 14th June and runs on until the 4th November 2012, whilst I don't want to give too much away the following photos give a taster of the making process and an idea of the diversity of techniques. I hope you will enjoy visiting the exhibition!




Catching my breath - catching up!

It's been a busy Spring for me with lots of great projects, travel to Denmark, Spain and the far north of Scotland plus a house move and now a studio move - so now my feet are just about touching the ground and I have a little time to reflect, edit a few pictures for my blog and galleries and make plans for the months ahead. So to get me back in the swing of things here is a brief summary of 2012 so far with further updates and galleries to follow.

In March I worked with my good friend Jan Johansen on the island of Amager, a district of Copenhagen creating a village of woven hazel and willow domes celebrating the Pilforeningen's (Danish Willow Association) 15th anniversary. I've started this projects gallery here: Amager Fælled Project

During April I returned to Castletown in Caithness for the third time, teaching alongside Catalan Basketmaker Mònica Guilera over a couple of weekend workshops, working with locally gathered materials creating a variety of soft rush mats and baskets plus willow and heather frame baskets.

At the end of April I collaborated with artist/maker/sculptor Chris Jenkins creating a large stick installation entitled 'Jetty' as part of Quay Arts 'Piers and Bridges' project. This large structure has now been dismantled and will carry on in it's next phase as part of Chris's large 'tower' installation for Ryde Arts Festival in June. Gallery to follow here: 'Jetty'.

During May I have been attending and demonstrating at Craft Fairs in Asco and Tarragona in Catalonia, Spain, alongside Mònica Guilera. These busy and exciting fairs show a wide variety of crafts and were historically themed for Roman and Medieval periods - yes I was in costume too! The techniques and materials of Spanish basketmaking are very diverse and in Catalonia alone makers can be seen using Esparto Grass, Palm, European Cane, Split Chestnut alongside Willow and several other materials.

Above: part of our display at Tarragona's 'Tarraco Viva' Roman festival,                                                 Below: weaving a Bee Hive with European Cane (Arundo donax) at Asco's Medieval Craft Fair.



East Cowes Community Cart

Today I have been helping my good friend Dan Roberts (of wooden bicycle fame) with his most recent project - a community cart - ideal for picnics, tree planting and beach clean up sessions! Constructed from recycled plywood and my own home grown willow, the cart will soon have it's own wheels - hand made by Dan using his recently built pole-lathe. The making today was part of a Sustainability Road Show in East Cowes Town Hall with a great turn out and many interesting exhibitors and my own daughters Pip and Rosie lending a hand. See the full gallery here: Community Cart


todays basket

During a brief but rewarding scour of the local charity shops this morning not only did i find the most extraordinary stripy tailored suit with a metallic copper silken lining - watch out for that at the next exhibition opening if i dare! - but I also found a very nice shopping basket at the shamefully low price of £2.50. Here it is and I'm curious for any information about it's source. As the basketmakers among you can see it has a continental oval base, neatly slewed sides with flow inwards then out, a nice two bundle rope border and a skein wrapped handle. Quite a combination! Any ideas?



Red Sky, Red Soil, White Grass, Scented Myrtle....

Tonight I was out at dusk in one of my favourite Birch woods...ssshhhh.....not telling where it is....

.....the purpose to gather the last of the season's Purple Moor Grass - left any longer and the leaves become fragile, gathered too early and it's still attached to the plant and is less easy to harvest. As the UK's only deciduous grass it's nice to take advantage of it's leaf dropping properties by gathering simply by running your hands through the tussocks. You can see the gathered grass drying in my studio here: studio blog.

Tonight the wood was full of roosting Rooks worried by my presence and giving me a swift fly by, the sky was red and the shallow stream was brighter than ever with the special Iron fixing bacteria. I've gathered the Iron slime here before and it makes a strong painting pigment - perhaps I should try it for dying my basketry materials?

It's great to see the woodland being managed well to increase the marshy area and encourage many of the special plants that are quite rare on the Isle of Wight. Bog Myrtle, Hair Moss, Ling Heather and various sedges whilst common just over the water in the New Forest struggle to find acidic soil habiats on the island.

Below some pictures from the same spot last November, Bog Myrtle still in leaf and the Moor Grass only just turned and pretty soggy!


Basketmaking workshops on the Isle of Wight

Tomorrow, Saturday 21st January, I'm off to Brading Roman Villa on the Isle of Wight to teach basketmaking - we will be working with willow bark and rush to make little plaited boxes that can be used for all kinds of little jobs around the house. They are fun to make and offer a nice introduction to weaving with these materials and how to do the special 'bias' corner where the base weavers become the side weavers.

Next Sunday, 29th January, I'll be back at the Villa again and we will be working with lovely soft rushes and grasses weaving with the twining technique to make a variety of little rounded baskets and mats.

Details and bookings can be made directly with Brading Roman Villa.



Søre Skogen - days teaching in Norway 2011

Last September I travelled through northern Poland, took a ferry across the Baltic Sea and then drove through Sweden and Norway with my basketmaker friend Mai Hvid Jørgensen to reach Søre Skogen a beautiful farm and teaching place on the west coast of Norway.

Over the following four days I taught a course combining traditional basketmaking skills with the freedom and spontaneity that I have practised for many years in my creative practice. This combination of tradition and innovation provides a healthy and challenging pallette of techniques whilst gathering inspiration from the lush vegetation and natural forms of the surrounding countryside.

Today I have uploaded a new gallery documenting this week showing some of the participants and their work, materials and natural inspirations. During 2012 two more of my courses are planned at Søre Skogen - an outdoor painting and drawing course in May, followed by a basketmaking course in September. Course details, prices and dates will follow over the coming weeks on this blog and on the Søre Skogen website, however to whet your appetite i hope you enjoy the pictures here.


Work in Progress - Asante Sana Exhibition

This week I am making work for Asante Sana, an exhibition in Odense, Denmark, featuring a selection of baskets from Uganda and woven responses made by European makers from Finland, Denmark and England. Curated by Jette Mellgren the exhibition is part of a bigger project in Uganda celebrating and developing traditional basketry and interconnections with Europe.

The European makers featured in the show are: Anna Maria Väätäinen, Dorte Tilma, Anette Holdensen, Susanne Wittingham, Helle Baslund, Jette Mellgren and myself. We have each chosen a Ugandan basket from a large selection purchased by Jette and we are all making our individual and diverse responses. My basket is for collecting Dragonflies! These are gathered during the wet season and supply a valuable source of nutrition - it is a beautiful openwork twined vessel that has some very interesting details. Below is some work in progress as the work evolves and I learn more about it's construction.

Finished work now in my gallery here: Asante Sana Gallery

Twining Iris leaves

Above twined Iris, below Esparto grass.


Off to the woods...

Such a mild autumn and winter this year - it's hard to believe that it has taken so long for leaf fall. Yesterday I took to the bike and went harvesting in the woods for whatever twigs look nice at the moment, I'll leave them for two or three weeks to dry a little then use them for a variety of trays, baskets and 'mountainscapes'. I came back to the studio with Birch, Larch, Willow, Elm and Soft Rush. Sweet Chestnut - thick grey twigs with distinctive lines running down the trunk bark from each bud.

Birch - beautiful reddish brown twigs with many branches.

Hazel - not with frost but with a fine downy covering highlighted by the sun behind.

Larch - fine, flexable and both scaly and knobbly with a yellowish tinge.

Willow - shiny, long and reddish brown with branchesat the tip.

My harvest - from left Birch, Larch, Willow, Elm.


Wayzgoose 2011 - pricing up my galore!!!

We are well under way - getting organised for this Friday and Saturday's Christmas Fair 'Wayzgoose 2011' at JubileeStores. The floor is swept, the Christmas tree is on it's way and I'm pricing up my baskets and paintings - so here's the deal - I'm having a big clear out to make way for my next body of work over the coming months in my 'still feels like new' studio. So baskets will start from as little as £5 and paintings from about £75 upwards - so snap up a deal and as they say 'once there gone there gone!'.

I'll be making all through the event too so if your a budding weaver or just curious come along and I'll happily talk you through what I'm up to, and of course new works will be available straight from the maker's hand! see you there.....


Wayzgoose 2011 on Ventnor Blog

Just an update to say that our Christmas Fair Wayzgoose 2011 is up on Ventnor Blog featuring a gallery of my pictures from last year....see you there!

See the Ventnor Blog article here......Wayzgoose 2011

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