We have posted a new schedule of willow basket making classes by Katherine Lewis for the first half of 2010. You can view all the info on the basket classes page on the Dunbar Gardens website. She is offering a variety of baskets and techniques, as well as trying to accommodate weavers with different levels of willow experience in most classes.
- February 27-28: Scallomed projects – oval shopper, magazine basket, square shopper
- April 10-11: Stake and strand projects – round gathering basket, oval shopper, oval garden basket
- May 1-2: Irish potato basket and fruit basket
- June 26-27: stake and strand projects – gathering basket, round laundry with roped handles, oval laundry
- mid August (specific dates to be announced): repeat of scallomed class from February
Katherine is also organizing an in depth four day class for July. This class will be for a smaller number of weavers looking for a more extensive experience. Possible projects will include square work and fitching. Some students have been asking for more in depth work with Katherine, and this will be the chance. People interested can contact Katherine for more details. (Need I say weavers with the necessary hand strength to go four days?)
We have also listed a couple of classes that she is teaching in other locations. She is offering an “Intro to fitching class” at the Northwest Basket Weavers Guild Spring Retreat March 25-26. The project is a lovely oval market basket. Katherine will also be traveling to Portland, Oregon May 20-24 to give a presentation and class to members of the Columbia Basin Basketry Guild.
Visit our website for more details, registration form, and photos of the baskets and past classes.
I photographed Katherine weaving a willow garden basket in October, 2007. Recently I picked out 15 of them for a set that I posted to our Flick.com account. The photos were taken in one of our barns on the farm.You can see some of the dried basketry willow from our farm behind Katherine. There is also a selection of finished baskets. The amazing detail is that our cat Spike only appears in one photo!
To be clear, Katherine doesn’t normally work here. These photos were taken for a magazine article that appeared in the April 2008 issue of Romantic Homes. The issue had a focus on “ways to shop green” and “French style”. Katherine was the featured artisan in an article entitled “A Basket Case”. The editor asked us to provide some photos of Katherine at work and on our farm. They did a nice job of taking what we sent and cropping it for a nice mix of images.
Jacqueline deMontravel wrote in the article, “Shopping with a basket is as classic and stylish as a designer bag that warrants a waiting list. As the trend catches on, such style will do more than liven up grocery aisles, it will benefit the world….Katherine says”It’s a purchase for something local, making an investment for a well-made item.”” Well in the photos we took she is weaving a garden basket, but maybe you’ll get the idea!
Katherine held her last willow basketmaking class of 2009 this past weekend December 5-6. She ended up with a great group of nine students plus friend and helper Alex Keggan. The projects were two small colorful baskets that were great for beginners or people wanting to practice basic skills. Originally we posted the class as an opportunity to make gifts, but after all the weaving we think most people were going to keep their baskets! I have posted a link to some photos from the second day of the class. Don’t forget that you can sign up for our mailing list to be informed of next year’s classes by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can just check our website for updates.
bundles of basketry willow at Dunbar gardens
Local farms produce more than food
It is great to see the focus on eating local and supporting local farms. The growth of farmers markets, organically grown produce, and the variety of artisan food products are all encouraging signs. But as a farm based business, I hope that people recognize that farms produce more than food products. Farms also grow and harvest fiber crops, lumber, ornamentals, nursery plants, biofuels, and more. We all use and depend on these crops, but are we giving the same thought to where and how they are produced? There is a lot of opportunity to encourage the same support for domestic producers of these non food crops as we are seeing in the “local food” movement.
Many people don’t even think our basketry willow is a farm crop. They imagine us going out and cutting mature willow trees somewhere. One of our goals is to show people the potential of growing a crop like willow on small farms or gardens and using it to craft functional goods. Our small farm is similar to many that use a so called value-added product to get a better return on the energy we invest. Instead of turning milk into cheese, we are turning willow into baskets. Granted that the cheese is a more essential product, but it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that willow farms producing baskets or sheep ranchers producing wool or even clothing can be part of a local farm economy.
Of course, one of the challenges facing producers of these non-perishable handcrafted items are the low cost alternatives imported from less developed countries. Stores like our local food co-operative are a great source of locally grown farm products, but they also sell inexpensive handcrafted products in the mercantile section. Many of these goods are made by people on the other side of the globe, but they are labeled “fair trade” which makes it easy for us to feel good about their purchase while getting a good price.
So the basketmaker has to find a market niche just like the winemaker who has their own vineyard might. Not everyone will want or need our product, but hopefully our business is included in the conversation about local farms, the economy, ecologically friendly practices, and sustainability.