Thursday, 27 February 2014

Workshop Reviews 2013

Following the great success of our first year of Weaving by the Sea we are delighted to be shortly announcing details of the extended 2014 workshop programme - however looking back for just a moment we are delighted to have received glowing reviews in the recent newsletter of Pileforeningen - the Danish Willow Association. Many thanks to Mona Kjær for sending on the translations.

Catalan basketmaking with Monica Guilera 
By Birgit Gehl Østergaard-Jensen

I was lucky. I was on a workshop with beautiful Monicà in the beautiful autumn in beautiful Catalonia.

So there we sat - in the shadows of the olive trees with a view across the blue ocean - full of expectations, as you are when you have the chance to learn something new, to take it in and battle with new techniques and unknown materials. Monicà greeted us with the happiest smile you can imagine and it felt very natural to learn about Catalan baskets in these surroundings.

”Yes-yes-yes” and ”no-no-no” spoken with empathy were often heard when Monicà explained and corrected and encouraged. The Catalan basket begins very friendly - which means that it is easy to start with. The stakes are a given as soon as the base is made; and while we learned the simple technique, we were also told about the many details that are important in choosing material, shaping the basket, preparation of the handle and so on. Our teacher was still happy and full of energy when day one was woven to an end.

But THEN we had to choose material for the siding - and of course we were inspired by the beautiful baskets Monicà showed us. Everyone wanted very much to weave with the light, smooth material that we saw in most of the models Monicà had brought along. With everyone equipped with a pair of gloves she cheerfully started to show us how to split and cut the Cane (Arundo donax), it looked like bamboo and is a hard and sharp material. Of course Monicà ended up splitting most of the cane and handing it out to people, for it was a difficult job to work with this unknown material.

Imagine that some Catalan basketmakers have worked entirely with this contrary sort of cane because it is free and grows everywhere in the area. Willow on the other hand is expensive in Catalonia and not at all as uniform as we know it from Denmark. But we all got through the challenges with the sidings and nicely reached the border and the handle. The typical Catalan handle is twisted like a rope and beautifully integrated into the border. We all wanted to learn this of course - but we didn’t realize what we had got ourselves into and Monicà almost looked concerned just by the thought of it! However we launched into it, put all our strengths into keeping the twist in place, twist it the right way and at the same time laying down the stakes. It was a challenge - and honestly, Monicà, I don’t understand how your small effective hands could stand helping us all! Thank you for helping us all to a successful result. ”Yes-yes-yes” - I’ll be there again in autumn of 2014, if in any way I can make it.

Catalan Basket with a Twist with Mai Hvid Jorgensen
Weaving in Spanish, A basketmaker’s experiences 
By Kirsten Larsen
Weaving by the Sea is a very suitable description of three intense days of weaving in Spain, you couldn’t wish for a better view over the sea.
I had chosen Mai's workshop: Catalan Basket with a Twist. Everyone on this workshop learned to make the Catalan base. After that, the twist came in! We used different  plant materials: rush, palm tree flower stems, olive twigs and more. Several people widened their weaving horizons with different techniques which they hadn’t tried out before, while many used the well-known technique of French randing. We made bags with leather straps, baskets with or without handles, and beautiful trays and dishes.
It was especially fascinating and inspiring to see the completely different uses of the same materials; from the neatest little basket - tight in shape and weaving - to bigger, looser and impulsive expressions in baskets. The starting point was the Catalan base and then each basket evolved and gained its own personal expression. It was clear to see, who travelled by plane and who came by car, as the space in one's suitcase had to be considered for the size and number of baskets to be created.
The participants of this workshop came from Denmark, Norway and the USA, so the language of the course was both in Danish, Norwegian, and English. No doubt everyone brought home some new international basketry terms. During the day most people moved around their workspace - following the sun and shadow - that way we got to share workspace with different people and watched the way they worked and gained inspiration.
The participants of Weaving by the Sea were mostly women, but one male basketmaker had been curious enough to sign up for Mai’s workshop. Other men, who didn’t take part in the workshops, were placed in the shadow with a cold cerveza! Some took part in a tapas workshop in town or went sightseeing in Barcelona.
Weaving by the Sea turned out to be very popular in the small town, some of the locals took part in the welcome evening and showed their hospitality with dance and music not to mention their local delicious food  everyone felt most welcome.Our presence also caught the attention of the local staff, which came to check every day what those crazy tourists were up to, even the local press came by our weaving workshops. 

Last but not least I have to mention the daily delicious lunch prepared by Mònica’s friend Aina, Yummy!

Exploring Mediterranean Plant Materials with Tim Johnson
By Agnete Diemer
As a start of a two month study trip to Spain to study weaving, I signed up for Tim’s workshop in Vilanova. This is the best thing I have done in years - I got in touch with my inner child and my curiosity for techniques and different materials that I could use in my own designs at home.
Tim started by presenting different Spanish baskets and a load of materials picked up right outside the door in dry Spain: date palm, banana fibre, different grasses, bark, bulrush, iris, olive twigs, honeysuckle, clematis, and a special sort of cane (Arundo donax) that grows everywhere in Spain. Arundo donax is used in many Spanish baskets and has been used for many generations to weave fences, huts and bee hives and more. At all times, at all places on the earth people have used the local materials available to them.
The first day Tim showed us how we could use the different materials in different ways to weave rope and string - rolling the material between your hands, on your knee or tie it to a tree. After that we could make small baskets, bowls, mats and so on either by using the ropes or the pure material.
To be on Tim’s workshop was like being in “Bountyland”, like Robinson Crusoe on a desert island, using all the local materials to create beautiful baskets. It was like being a child again, to play and play after having learned simple techniques. To forget yourself and launch into your fantasy without knowing, where you would end up. I gave up wanting to aim at a certain result and left the workshop with lots of small weave samples in different materials and the base of a basket in date palm that I would work on later.
Tim passes on his knowledge in a very pedagogic way, he generously shares everything he knows and his enthusiasm is so catching. He also gave a very interesting lecture with photos on Spanish baskets, the materials in their natural surroundings and the current basketmaking scene in Spain. 

Tim has travelled a great deal and takes advantage of the local materials wherever he goes, he has agreed to teach on Natur Sommerhøjskolen on Bjørnø, Denmark in week 27, where he will encourage participants to work with all the natural materials to be found on this beautiful Danish island.  


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