Photos from Salt Basketry Fair....

I'm just beginning to sort and edit the pictures from my recent visit to the excellent basketry fair in Salt, Cataluña, Spain - here are just a couple of shots to give you a little flavour, many more to come....


2 ply or not 2 ply............

Today as guest of the Isle of Wight Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild I gave a talk about my work  and influences followed by a workshop exploring the techniques and creative possibilities of making hand made string.

Working with Bulrush Schoenoplectus, Soft Rush Juncus effusus, Yellow Flag Iris pseudacorus, Iris siberica and Day Lily Hemerocallis we made a variety of 2 and 3 ply strings in S and Z configurations using both the straightforward 'hand over hand' technique as well as the slightly more challenging hand rolling or 'palm binding' technique that I favour for speedy cordage production.

Above - Soft rush 2 ply string before trimming and below a 3 ply under construction.

Alongside my workshops I enjoy sharing a display of baskets from my collection - artifacts combining diverse functions, materials, techniques and cultural origins jostle for attention.

Above: a Maori Flax skirt and Spanish Esparto Grass donkey head alongside baskets from Norway, Madeira, Africa, Sarawak and a Hopi Yucca leaf sifting tray.

Above : Baskets from Tanzania, Finland, Orissa in East India, Lesotho, Norway and behind Australian twined Pandanus baskets.

Above: Woven shoes from Denmark, India and China, Rice steaming baskets from Bhutan, a Polish frame basket and lined up at the back a French Perigord Basket, Mediterranean Arundo and Vine basket, and a classic English white willow picker.


Procession preparations....

This week I'm finalising my costume for next Sundays 'Disguised Procession Down Primrose Hill' setting out from Cecil Sharpe House at 4pm and leading back towards the 'Halloween Music Fair' 2-11pm. Come join us and be-mask yourself to get lost in the crowd.....

I took part in the event in 2009 wearing my Brahan Man costume and had a great time -  see the 2009 procession here.


shifting lightscapes....

Taking inspiration from Katayoun Dowlatshah's excellent newly opened exhibition 'Orbit' at Quay Arts, today I worked with a group of adults exploring the creative possibilities of off-camera optics - taking the glass out of the lens and playing with it's almost magical ability to create images on translucent surfaces. Tissue paper, perspex and acetate can all be used to view the constantly changing play of light transmitted - shifts in focus, tilt and luminescence can all be manipulated with a delicate slight of hand creating ephemeral moving cloudscapes with the illusion of three- dimensionality.

Alongside the off camera work we also looked at two of my larger cameras - a 1950's Graflex Speed Graphic press camera and an early precursor of todays familiar SLR cameras a Soho Reflex from the 1920-30's. Both offered the possibility of photographing 'through the viewfinder', more commonly known as 'TTV', thus capturing the ground glass textures and special light qualities associated with larger format cameras.

Following on from this workshop I will shortly be working with a local primary school creating an exhibition in response to Katayoun's work - more information here.


TV Heads

Monday this week saw me visiting a local school to follow up the pupils visit with me to Quay Arts to see the fascinating exhibition Telenesia by Julian Conczak exploring the world of data glitching, crashes, scratches and obsolescence.

We created an array of miniature televisions, explored the history of television design since the 1930's and created our own TV wall with the pupils own heads being news readers and presenters - it's often the workshops that present new challenges that make me think outside the box.......


more pizza, a shingle shack and a garland....

Following the excellent workshop weekend at St.Saviours in the West Wight building an outdoor bread oven with home grown willow and locally gathered clay, this week we followed up with another cooking session for pupils, parents and teachers to try it's delicious baked produce.

Alongside the cooking we gave the oven a second coat of thick clay slip to fill in the natural cracks in the clay as the oven dries out, we also built the essential shingled shelter to protect it from rain and snow this winter. More pictures updated in the project gallery here.

Thankyou to Tom and Cathy for all your hard work and all those who came and ate the pizza after all the hard work was done!

Thankyou also to West Wight Landscape Partnerships for making it all possible.

 If your wondering what those crazy looking hand painted tiles on the oven shelter are - they are recycled plywood shingles from one of my previous installation 'garland' exhibited in several galleries in Ireland and Scotland in 1997. Great to put them to good use!


Baskets in print...

Nice to see this month's edition of the Crafts Council's Crafts magazine has one of my baskets featured advertising the Baskets exhibition at Ruthin Craft Centre, the show carries on till the till the 6th Nov.



Bread Oven for St.Saviour's.....

Not content with a restful weekend following my busy and inspiring week in Salt, Cataluña, I've been working with a great group of parents and children creating an outdoor bread oven for a school in the West Wight over the weekend.  Great fun squelching clay with our feet and mixing pizza dough with our hands. Here is a couple of shots with more over on my gallery page here: St.Saviour's Bread Oven





Castaño, Esparto and a fresh start.....

Today new beginnings as I moved into my new space at Jubilee Studios, the workshop wing of the Isle of Wight's Quay Arts, I'll be using this as my main working space aswell as offering a selection of workshops and photographic services for artists and makers.

With my newly acquired collection of materials gathered last week in Cataluña, Spain, I spent the day getting used to my new clean space with white walls and a pine floor. Nothing like an empty space to inspire makings and seeing natural materials for what they are. Esparto (a tough grass from southern Spain), split Castaño (Sweet Chestnut wood) and Palma leaves are lined up ready for experimentation over the coming weeks. Once the dust settles I hope to post a few blog entries about my exciting and inspiring travels this summer to Norway, Poland and Spain, such inspiring times meeting wonderful makers, learning new techniques and gaining a tiny glimpse into our diverse European traditions.


Autumn Lady's-Tresses

Early yesterday morning I was taken by suprise by a fine display of the orchid Autumn Lady's Tresses (Spiranthes spiralis) growing from a shortly mown lawn in Wootton on the Isle of Wight. While not rare it's not something I've seen very often and certainly not on a domestic lawn. Reading up in The Isle of Wight Flora by Colin Pope, Lorna Snow and David Allen, it's nice to know of a little un-natural history:

"It occurs on many of our downs though often in small quantity. It can be abundant in umimproved neutral meadows both on clay and greensand soils, and on older garden lawns which have been left unmown in late summer. Some of these lawns are known to have been derived of turfs cut from downland, with Arreton Down in particular being a prolific source in the first half of the twentieth century"

Nice to think of this little orchid having survived removal from downland sometime after the war and still thriving - away from the sheep and rabbits on a lawn near the sea!



Baskets Exhibition, Ruthin Craft Centre 16th Sept - 6th Nov 2011

Hi folks it's been a busy summer for me travelling, making and teaching in some amazing places and I have a selection of blog stories heading this way - however today I'm happy to tell of the forthcoming curated Basketry exhibition that I am delighted to have been invited to take part in at the Ruthin Craft Centre in Wales. The opening invites arrived this week and you can see a detail of one of my costumes on the cover.

Without giving too much away in advance of the opening one of my larger costume pieces will be on show alongside baskets based on my researches into the Isle of Wight basketry tradition. The show includes the work of Dail Behennah, Mary Butcher, Lee Dalby, Lizzie Farey, John Galloway, Joe Hogan, Anne Harrington-Rees, Caroline Sharp and myself. Unfortunately I'll not be able to make the opening but I'll try and make it up to the study day on the 5th November, see you there!






Love Quay.....

I've just finished this large willow bordered pinboard - a contribution towards Quay Arts campaign LOVE QUAY just kicking off over the coming weeks in the wake of losing their Arts Council core funding. The pinboard will form part of a wall display in the Quay's excellent cafe encouraging the public to pin up what they love about the Quay. It should be installed over the next couple of weeks so pop in and pin up your thoughts for all to see!


Scran Bag, Nammet Bag or Frail .......

Call it what you will last weeks 4 day workshop at Jubilee Stores on the Isle of Wight went very well with all six participants going away with very usable and attractive baskets plaited and stitched with Bulrush. With documented history back to the 12th century something about the Scran Bag's design must be doing something right - be it it's strong and handy design, anti-theft and wasp 'proof' lid or relative simplicity of manufacture.

On the Isle of Wight these farmers lunch baskets were traditionally made from Soft Rush and Iris leaves and perhaps anything else suitable that happened to grow on the farmer's land. It's great to see some back in action and being used once more as hard working everyday attractive baskets - thankyou everyone who took part and had the courage to plait 14 metres of five strand braid!


Demonstrating this weekend at the Brook Heritage Event

Today and tomorrow I will be demonstrating basketry with willow and rush in Brook on the Isle of Wight focussing on local baskets like the Isle of Wight Scran Bag and Shrimp and Prawn pots. I always look forward to these events as it is a great way to research local knowledge and traditions with the visiting public - so if your in the area drop by and say hello!


Winning Basket!

I'm delighted to have won the V International Contest of Plant Fibres at The Palm Museum in Mas de Barberans in Cataluña, Spain in the Contemporary category. I posted off two baskets last week to take part in the competition and the IX Edition of the Vegetable Fibre Exhibition. The winning basket will now be part of the permanent collection at the Museum - I feel very honoured!

Below is the winning basket - 'Spiky Vessel' 2011.


Return of the Heather Creel

I'm just home from a rewarding trip to Castletown in Caithness in the far north east of Scotland, I've been researching and teaching Heather basketmaking based on the beautiful old Heather Creel in the collection of Castletown Heritage Centre. The basket can be seen in my earlier blog entry here and in my new gallery here: Heather Creel Workshop, Caithness 2011.

It has been a real treat to work directly from such an unusual and old basket working with a material that certainly provides a challenge to control and shape. The workshop was well received and communally we learnt a great deal about the making of the Creel in the absence of any known living makers. Below are a few shots to give you a flavour of the making process.

Thankyou to Joanne B Kaar for great company and materials logistics, Ranald for his expert Heather plucking, Muriel Murray for making it all happen and keeping the workers fed and Sheila Moir for her enthusiasm for the whole project.

Below: Sheila Moir holding the Heather Creel she donated to Castletown Heritage Centre, she was given the basket by an elderly man, Sinclair MacDonald of Scarfskerry, who used it to bring his catch home from his fishing boat. I'm holding one of the creels I made during the trip.

Preparing the Heather - beating and combing to remove the bulk of the leaves.

Plying up the Coir stringWeaving the base and stitching the rolled border.


Baskets off to Mas de Barberans

Last week I posted off my baskets to be exhibited in the V International Contest of Plant Fibres at The Palm Museum in Mas de Barberans in Cataluña. It would have been nice to travel with them as I visited this area a few years ago - however I have another date in Caithness this weekend teaching the Heather Creel. My new baskets are made from Rush and Butterbur - lets hope they arrive in one piece!



getting ready for christmas....

This week I've been working with pupils in Portsmouth at Admiral Lord Nelson School launching a new enterprise project creating saleable christmas products using sustainable natural materials harvested in the school nature reserve. At this stage we are developing making and gathering skills soon to be followed by market research and product design. Get your orders in early!


Spudtopia makes front cover of engage.....

Nice delivery today as the latest edition Engage's International Journal of Visual Arts and Gallery Education arrived at Quay Arts featuring 'Spudtopia' on the front cover - the installation I worked on last autumn with our local tution centre Thompson House. Always nice to see one of my projects in print!

More of that super exhibition here: 'Spudtopia' Gallery'


flotilla of junks, rafts and reed boats...

This week I have been working with pupils from local schools around the theme of the forthcoming 80th annual Round the Island Race where hundreds of yachts race around the Isle of Wight. Taking inspiration from a variety of ancient and modern water craft and Quay Arts current exhibition myself and fellow artists Chris Jenkins and Joanne Hummel Newell created a flotilla of craft sailing through the gallery. Tomorrow work continues as Joanne uses animation to bring the fleet to life and Chris invents new watercraft from his diverse collection of broken piano parts and vintage radios.

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