Thursday, July 1, 2010

Traditional Willow with Sandy Whalen

On the road again. Mid-May, guild member Noreen and I headed west on the highway to Milford, Michigan for a 3 day class to learn more about making baskets in our favourite material - willow!

At 9:00 the first day, 7 students were there, ready to begin. Sandy is definitely the best prepared instructor I have ever met. Each of us was given a kit containing preselected willow for each stage of our different baskets to be woven that day. Each step in the instruction sheet was colour coded to the ties on the appropriate bundle of willow in the kit. As an instructor, Sandy was observant, knowledgeable and always ready to help.

Sandy had to deal with every student making a different set of baskets. What a challenge to keep everything straight! Each day we were given our kit for that day.

First day - Ginger Jar with Lid

This began with a small round base with modified French rand. Shaping seemed easier with finer willow and French rand is a great weave to shape the typical ginger jar form. All went well. The lid was fun to make, especially the hasp and the hinge, although the crown was a bit too pronounced which made the diameter of the lid a bit smaller than required - fortunately it’s just big enough.

Second day - Mayflower

This was designed as a large basket but somehow my version was quite a bit smaller because I had difficulty with the oval bottom. Learned a new way to weave the base with French rand using groups of weavers spaced out around the centre but the base would not stay straight, no matter how hard I tried. The result was that the side of the basket did not have a centre space for the handle, so it’s offset toward one end. Still, it’s an attractive, sturdy little basket with a pretty English wale siding that has a pronounced diagonal to set it off.

Third day - Oval Shopper

This one was designed as a large basket, but the oval base didn’t quite take the proper shape so my basket turned out more the size of a fruit picking basket than a shopper. The bottom wale did get done in class and I finished by weaving the English rand siding and doing the final touches at home. It’s turned out to be a very handy size, not as large as my shoppers.

Sandy’s weaving studio is the loft in her barn, it’s been renovated and we had a beautiful, airy space with lots of light from large windows. The weather was bright and sunny. We were able to stay later and weave if we wished. We could see her willow growing and it was a pleasure to imagine it later in the summer when it would be taller. Michigan Brown was one variety in Sandy's collection that I had not encountered before. It was mighty good weaving.

Altogether this was a worthwhile trip to Sandy Whalen’s, hoping for a field excursion with some guild members in 2011.