Katherine sets up her display at MoNA Style
Katherine just participated in MoNA Style 2010. The Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner, WA hosts an annual wearable art show and sale featuring clothing, jewelry, and items for the home. This year’s event featured forty Northwest artists as well as a cafe and fashion shows at local restaurants. The event is one of the fundraisers for the museum each year. This year’s silent auction theme was “Lingerie”. There was a variety of work in ceramics, fiber, metal, and painting. At the end of last year’s show the theme was announced and Katherine decided to create a piece.
Katherine’s goal was to make the piece only with willow, which she did except the small amount of thread used in sewing the skirt. There are several different willows used with the natural colors of green, red, and orange. The skirt is made from willow bark which was cut into strips and sewn to a bark waist band which is attached to the top with bark also. The corset part has bark strips to tie it together in the back. The front uses a colorful zig zag weave while the sides were woven with a fitching technique for an open look. The photo above of Katherine with her work was taken by friend and ceramist Dinah Steveni. Below is a slide show of images of the work from several sides and details taken by Steve.
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!
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.
willow bean pole
There’s nothing like the flavor of pole beans fresh from the garden. And even more satisfying is growing your own willow rods for making a trellis.
pole beans at Dunbar Gardens
I use some of the larger willow rods for pole beans. Varieties like Harrison’s or Continental Osier produce stout 8 to 10 foot rods. This year I also used some of the three year old peeled willow I showed in an earlier post about peeling willow bark. I put metal fence posts in about every 10 feet and run a heavy gauge wire along the top. Then I insert the dried willow rods several inches in the ground at an angle and tie them with a short piece of twine to the wire.
yellow romano beans
One of our favorite varieties to grow are these Italian yellow romanos – Meraviglia di Venezia.
Rufous Hummingbird on a willow bean pole
An added benefit is the fun watching the birds use the willow as a perch like this hummingbird waiting to zip down to the adjacent zinnias.