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Making Willow Baskets

hi i’m jackie and i’m going to show you how to make a basket willow basket i’m going to choose six matched rods they’re about the same thickness at the base the only tool that you really need if you’re going to be doing any basket making and this is a bodkin you can also use a screwdriver if you’re just starting out you’ve got to make the base well because everything that you put in the basket is going to rest on the base so it has to be sort of well staked up otherwise it might all come apart that’s when you don’t want it to this willow you wouldn’t be able to use it in this way if it hadn’t have been soaked and traditionally they say that you need to soak it for one day per foot of length so the six foot rods have been in the tank for six days plus one day which is left out of the tank which is said to mellow the willow not to let the willow know who the boss is and so old lots of old basket-making terms such as taking the spite out of the willow some of the willows i i grow myself like the the flanders red here in this one um but this is commercially grown willow and it comes from a company called musgroves they’re in somerset and um because traditionally somerset was well known for growing a lot of willows on the somerset levels um and i like to support them so they’re a nice family-run business and i’d recommend them the thing about the willow is that if you you’ve got to prepare it in advance so you’ve got to know that next week you’re going to be making a basket so if you want to make a basket next week you’ve got to start soaking it on such and such a day for whatever length of rod and once it’s soaked you can keep it for a certain length of time it won’t last forever so you have to either use it up or dry it and once it’s been soaked once it’s never as good the second time when i’ve worked with people who’ve been um maybe had you know got some sort of you know mental health issues going on they’ve found it enormously beneficial because you’re in the moment with it you kind of you can’t concentrate on anything else other than what you’re doing right now and um and then afterwards you’re like oh so that was then that happened then and now you know you’ve put something between maybe what was an unpleasant experience but one of the things i really like about basketry is that this is what we’ve always done and we’ve always found the plants growing near us and found a way of turning them into something that’s useful and beautiful something that enhances our our lives and and people have usually done it together they’ve done it as a group making chatting sharing stories and when you do that you’re connecting with that that tradition which is really lovely you know really nice people always say when i’m demonstrating they always say oh i expect it’s really hard on your hands and i sort of say well perhaps it is but i’ve got used to it and um actually it’s it’s really really nice to be working with your hands really nice and this is exactly the same willow as this may even have come from the same plant um but what they do to turn it into buff willow is they boil it in the tank i’m not sure for how long and the bark the colour of the bark colours the rod then they put it through a stripping um brace that takes all the bark off and the rod is left this kind of buff honey color to get the white willow they um they harvest the willow and then they they put it in a barrel of water so that the willow starts to grow and then come may they just take it straight off the bark the sap’s rising and they can strip the the bark off and then they put the willow into a tub of sulfur dust that keeps it white otherwise it starts to go mouldy there are lots of different kinds of baskets using looped and knotted techniques with materials that aren’t sort of so strong as this you know like different kinds of nets in papua new guinea they make these incredible bags that they carry their babies in they’re so beautiful and they’re all made out of vines all looped it takes them about a month to make a bag you know so they’re very special you know and um somewhere somebody or other somebody has worked out how they made them you know it will last for years if it’s um if it’s not left in a damp condition if it’s otherwise it has a tendency to maybe go mouldy or um sometimes you see old baskets and they’ve been left somewhere where unfortunately the woodworm has got them and and if they’ve been if they’ve been attacked by woodworm then they really need to be treated to kill the wood worm otherwise the woodworm will just eat the insides of the rod and before you know it the basket will be a pile of dust unfortunately final one oh yeah one small round basket with french brand in two colors let’s trim those two off you

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