Due to the Covid 19 pandemic I have not exhibited in any exhibitions or galleries so far this year. You can still buy online at my shop here. And now that we are coming out of lockdown you can see work in real life and also buy it at Ethel Loves Me in Rye or Henry Paddon Contemporary Art in Eastbourne.
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.
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
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
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 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.
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
I had a wee camping break while in Somerset and came back with a load of willow to fill up my new workspace
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!