Julie Gurr-Willowweaver

Contemporary and Traditional Basketry

Chaos is A Friend of Mine 25th June – 7th July 2019

Hastings Arts Forum, St Leonards-on-sea,

I have a few pieces of new work in this exhibition that includes a variety of work by Hastings Arts Forum artists.

Natures Chaos – Willow

All Hands On Deck 19th to 25th May 2019

Weaving Fishing Nets and Baskets

There is lots of information, photos, and examples of how baskets and nets were made and used for fishing in this exhibition at Brighton Fishing Quarter Gallery this week. Contemporary work by Mary Butcher, Louise Paul and myself also on display.

Island Life Exhibition 15-22 April, 12.30-2.30pm

South Lodge, St Leonards Gardens, Maze Hill, St Leonards on Sea, TN38 0B

Charcoal a By Product of Basketmaking

My partner and I have recently got into charcoal production. The Artists Charcoal that we produce is made on the fire at home from bits of willow leftover from basketmaking.

Tin of willow just removed from the fire embers

It is an interesting process where the wood has to be burnt but the amount of oxygen it has access to is reduced. This burns off all the impurities in the wood leaving pure charcoal. We seal it in a tin and then put it on the fire.

We now have boxes of this charcoal for sale in Neames, the Art shop in Rye and Artwright in Hythe 

Artists Charcoal packaged in its box

 

You can also get it on ebay here 

We make it at home on a fire so it might not be up to the professional standard of some of the big suppliers so if you are an artist that requires all the pieces in a box to be a standard colour and softness it may not be for you. We have met artists that enjoy the variation however and of course our charcoal is cheaper

Baskets From Found Materials 19 – Grass

This month my basket is made from materials obtained during my trip to Scotland last October.

Grass Basket

There are two different types of grass in the basket. The darker one is one that was cut from Dundee Botanic Gardens where I had been demonstrating at an open day. My friend Clare, the gardener had saved it when working in the gardens. I twisted this one into a length of cord.

Grass

The other lighter coloured grass is marram grass (I think) collected on the Isle of Arran when I was back there visiting friends. I split this into finer strands and used it to tie coils of the other grass together to form a basket.

Grass Basket

I need more practise to get it less wibbly wobbly shaped but it is useful as a pen holder!

Grass Basket Pen Holder

Baskets From Found Materials 18 – Wrapping Paper

xmas basket 030

This basket was made using used Christmas wrapping paper.

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After Christamas everyone has a pile of used wrapping paper. For this basket rather than just throw it away, I thought I would try and use some of it. After ripping the paper into strips I twisted them into a length of rope.

xmas basket 022

Then, using some bits of raffia that had been used to tie one of the presents I coiled the paper rope into a small basket.

xmas basket 034

You can see the coils clearly spiralling up when looking down on the basket.

xmas basket 031

Baskets from Found Materials 17 – New Zealand Flax

New Zealand Flax Basket

Basket from New Zealand Flax (freshly made)

This is a small basket I learnt to make years ago. It is made from New Zealand Flax (phormium tenax) and is a traditional basket made by Maori’s in New Zealand.

Underside of Basket made from New Zealand Flax

Underside of Basket made from New Zealand Flax

I got the materials from Dundee Botanic Gardens when I was working there demonstrationg basketry with natural fibres at an open day they had.

New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax)

New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax)

The long leaves are split into strips to make the basket. I was told by the person that taught me how to make this basket that it was used as a sort of disposable bowl. It is made fairly quickly with fresh leaves from the plant and can be used for eating out of. As it dries however the strips of the leaves shrink and the basket gets very gappy so is no longer as useful.

New Zealand Flax Basket

Basket from New Zealand Flax (a week after making it)

Baskets From Found Materials 16 – Bindweed and Cordyline

My latest basket from found materials uses cord made from bindweed and fibres from cordyline leaves. To get from my house to my workshop in Hastings I have to walk down 300 steps to the bottom of the hill I live on. These steps are overgrown with a variety of materials that I might be able to use in the future.

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But in particular there seems to be an abundance of bindweed growing over and down the walls and fences on each side.

Bindweed

After harvesting I left the bindweed to dry a little and then stripped the leaves before making it into a cord.

Bindweed cord

I then coiled the cord sewing the coils with fibres from cordyline leaves that I found in the street near my house.

Bindweed Coiled Basket

This is a small sample but I hope to make bigger baskets with this material in the future

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Baskets From Found Materials 15 – Bindweed and Mystery Plant Material.

Well after having settled in, in Hastings, I am back with my Baskets From Found Materials project. As I am now busy with my business here I am not committing to a basket a week, but hope to do one at least one a month, if not more often!

My latest ‘found materials’ basket is made with bindweed and another plant I found the dried remains of growing in the hedgrows.

Bindweed Random

Bindweed is a plant I do not remember seeing in Scotland, where I used to live, but around here it is a curse to gardeners, its long tendrils winding their way up and around other plants. There is loads of bindweed growing in various places here in Hastings and I will be using it for my next basket as well and so will talk more about it, and show pictures of it, then. Meanwhile I’ll just explain that for this irregular dish shaped basket I used cord made from the bindweed and combined it with the other mystery plant material in a random weave. It’s not particularly strong so probably not very functional but was an interesting experiment and the result is quite decorative.

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A New Start In Hastings

You may have noticed I have been a bit quiet on the basketmaking front over the last few months. I have been busy moving and have had to have a break from making baskets and my Baskets From Found Materials blog.

After 21 years in Scotland, 14 of them as a basketmaker on the Isle of Arran I have recently made the transition ‘down south’! I am now in Hastings in East Sussex, by the sea again but a much more urban environment. Its a small town though and doesn’t take long to get out into the countryside, and I hope to do lots of exploring soon. Things have fallen into place for me here in Hastings and I already managed to get myself a workshop space for my basketmaking.  Its at a place called Brittania Enterprise Centre in central Hastings where there are spaces with loads of small businesses including joiners, furniture makers, blacksmiths, curtain makers, a jewellery maker, a surf board maker, mechanics, boat builders, graphic designers, and sign writers and lots more.  Its got a nice friendly community feel and it will be good to be working nearby other people rather than on my own all day as I was when I had my workshop on Arran.

After cleaning out all the clay dust left by the previous resident who was, yes you’ve guessed it, a potter, all my newly acquired workshop needed was willow. I hope to find somewhere more local to get willow, or grow my own eventually, but I needed to get a good stock to get me going so a trip to Somerset was called for.

It’s always good to see a big willow farm and how it is all harvested and processed. When I was there the main activity was stripping willow for white willow rods. The willow harvested in winter is stood in troughs of water until leaves just begin to sprout. The willow is then put through machines that strip the bark off and then the willow is stood outside in the sun to dry out before storage.

Freshly Stripped Willow Drying In The Sun At Musgrove Willows

Freshly Stripped Willow Drying In The Sun At Musgrove Willows

I had a wee camping break while in Somerset and came back with a load of willow to fill up my new workspace

Willow in my workshop     Willow outside my workshop

It feels good to be all set to go and I already have a couple of orders. Going to start my Baskets From Found Materials blog again soon as well. I’ve already been spotting some interesting materials that I want to experiment with!

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