Friday, February 6, 2009

Basket Class in Nova Scotia

This is a story I wrote for our guild newsletter, thought I'd share it with you.

In September and October 2004, the Nova Scotia Basketry Guild hosted two-day willow basketmaking workshops at locations around their province. The event was called "The Nova Scotia Basketry Tour." Students had the privilege of learning from Master Basketmaker Werner Turtschi of Switzerland.

After I arrived at guild president, Joleen Gordon's home in Dartmouth, Werner and I travelled to the farm of Heather and Dan Sanft where this class was held.  Here they operate the Lunenburg County Winery, run a pick-your-own blueberry operation and host their B & B. Located on high ground with a breathtaking view of surrounding lakes and hills, this was a wonderful place just to be, even without the basketmaking. A pleasant bonus was the seemingly endless supply of fresh blueberries and a variety of delicious fruit wines with dinner.

Heather grows a collection of cultured basketry willow and shared some cuttings of her favourite varieties with me. One of the students brought a couple of rods of his more interesting willow including a heavy variety used for furniture making. The one year growth was over 9' long! I was thrilled to be adding five new varieties to my willow beds and planned to plant several more in the spring.

The first day of the workshop was sunny and cool, perfect for weaving outdoors.  Werner took the ten students through each step in the construction of a classic round willow basket in the Swiss tradition, completing the base, bottom 4 and 3-rod wales and one set of French randing on day one.  The next morning was rainy but we moved inside a quonset building and forged ahead, weaving the second set of French randing and the top 4-rod wale.  After lunch, we wove the border but the piece de resistance was the set of roped handles, a good way to learn the skill because if you did not quite succeed the first time, you got another crack at it with the second one.  It took some persistence to learn to rope a piece of willow to prepare it for the handle.

The workshop ended with a feedback session, complete with Swiss chocolate and posing for a "family portrait".  All in all, October was a perfect time of year to spend a weekend outdoors in beautiful rural Nova Scotia weaving willow baskets with Werner Turtschi.

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