Sandra Kehoe

Basketmaker & Willow Artist

Pickled Pumpkin

Adapted from, The Complete Book of Pickles and Relishes by Leonard Louis Levinson

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Pickled Pumpkin

makes 6 pints

4 or 5 pound long island cheese pumpkin

Salt

1 pint vinegar

1/2 pint maple sirup

4 whole cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 small cinnamon stick

12 peppercorns

1 bay leaf

2 small cloves of garlic

Peel and seed the pumpkin and cut into small cubes. Sprinkle with salt and let it stand 2 or 3 hours. Meanwhile make a sirup of the remaining ingredients. Wash salt off pumpkin, pack into hot, sterilized jars and pour the sirup over it. Place on lids and process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes.

At the Branch Ranch with Eddie Glew

Ok, I’m trying my best to keep up with blogging and writing about all my weaving experiences this last summer. Not sure why it’s super hard to get me to stop moving and write a few sentences every so often; three jobs, two kids and a boyfriend might do that to you!

July was a super quiet month and then August kicked right back in with some amazing fun. In the beginning of August I traveled up to Warkworth Ontario to the Branch Ranch. A willow farm and basketry school run by two of my favorite Canadians ;)

This week they were hosting a basket maker from England, Eddie Glew of Blithfield Willowcrafts.

When I found this out a few month prior I was so super excited. Eddie and I have been following each other on instagram for a few years and I was over the moon to find out I could take classes with him only a few hours away, instead of a whole ocean away. The thought of having to drive on the wrong side of the road in the UK is enough to make me stay here LOL.

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So I was super lucky to get into all of Eddies classes, three in total. We started off with a rope coil weave basket, moved to square work and finally a fitched shopper on the last two days. The fitched shopper I think is the only thing that I didn’t get a picture of yet.

So what can I say, and how much can I compliment without sounding like a broken record! Eddie’s work is just perfection and he is a stellar teacher. All I can say is that if you ever have the chance to take a class with him you better jump. His work speaks for itself and trust me when I say that he is a teacher with a true passion and love for this craft. We were all in good hands and it was wonderful for me not only to learn basketry techniques, but to pick up on some great teaching techniques as well. My sincere thanks to Eddie and his amazing wife too, for visiting Canada and making it super easy for me to take some classes.

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There wasn’t only baskets, there was great meals, amazing chocolate, a car full of willow, two grams of saffron in my pocket and a few axes might have been thrown. As amazing as it is to learn and work with other basket makers, the experience and friendships are just as special and memorable.

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If you are an extreme saffron lover like I am and you are in Ontario or near it make sure you check out True Saffron. Or just check it out now! Don’t purchase mediocre saffron that might not be the real deal, trust me get the good stuff.

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We managed to remember to take a few pictures at the end! I’m really hoping to travel to England one day and take a few more courses with Eddie. I’m no where near ready to stop learning as much as I can. Cheers!

Birch Bark Basketry at the North House Folk School

The next leg of my June 18' basketry journey lead me to the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota.  

I had signed up for a birch bark class months ago.  In fact it was the first class I officially signed up for in hopes of taking this summer.  I didn't how how I was going to get there, but I knew I had to get in the class because I didn't think it would be available very long, and boy was I right.  

Dennis Chilcote teaches a class in birch bark harvesting and basket making that has been running for several years, and it fills up super fast.  I put my name on the registry and hoped I would find a way to get to this school somehow.

As it turns out, this class was a few days from when I would be in Iowa for the willow gathering. In my head I thought....Iowa...Minnesota...they are sort of close...right?! Well it made sense to me, there was no way I would drive all the way to Iowa, go back home and then drive to Minnesota a week later.  So I decided to smash it all together and go on an amazing road trip for two weeks.  

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Since I would arrive to Grand Marais ahead of schedule I decided to sneak in a two day cheese making course.  If you know about me, or read my bio you will notice that I interned for a summer with a dairy farmer who made raw milk cheese.  I helped milk the cows and make cheese for a summer I'll never forget.  So since I had some experience, here was a chance for me to indulge in a little scandinavian cheese making.

It was a super fun class, and most of the cheeses we made are still curing in my wine cooler, ready and waiting for a Christmas cheese board that will surely impress! 

There was also time for my boyfriend and I to do a little sight seeing, and boy did we visit as many places as we could.  A quick search found all the desirable beach stops on lake superior and we visited them all.  I even had some time to take my kayak out on a random lake we happened upon, and most importantly on lake superior in the harbor where the school resides.  You can see the shot I took of the school from the bow of my Oru.  The orange building is where our cheese class took place.  Without a doubt it was the most amazing classroom I ever stepped foot in.

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I have never visited the Midwest, if that is what Minnesota is considered? The climate and scenery made me fall in love instantly.  The lupines were in full bloom and the shoreline was unlike anything I have ever seen.  I got totally engrossed in the rocks and wasn't satisfied until I had a bag full of large basalt stones for my massage therapy needs, and several small agates that felt like finding diamonds. 

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We visited so many beaches and had the most gorgeous weather.  The water was crystal clear like on a tropical island, but the stones, pine and birch trees lining the shores created a super special scene.  You might hear people talking about this lake as if it were heaven on earth, and I'd be one to fall in line to agree.  

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For five days I became acquainted with this beautiful spot, and then it was time for the main event.  Learning how to harvest birch bark with Dennis is an experience I will never be able to forget.  It was fun, yet difficult and it felt like finally being part of the whole process of making a basket from start to finish.  Mosquito infested, bushwhacking, soaking wet and rainy forrest for several hours; gathering unwieldy rolls of wet bark, and I would pay to do it all again!    

Dennis was self taught from a very young age.  He developed his own patterns, tools and methods for creating the most beautiful folded birch berry baskets I have ever seen.  People swoon just looking at his work.  He is a master craftsman and I was honored to be learning from such a talented and sweet man.  His subtle jokes and odd sayings were all part of the charm.  You could tell he loved his craft and gladly shared all he knew with us as a class.    

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Most people always ask if stripping the bark harms the trees that we were taking them from.  If done in the correct way, removing the bark will not harm the tree and it will continue to grow the rest of it's life.  Another comforting or sad fact is that we were gathering our bark from an area that was designated for logging.  Dennis received special permission to gather bark on this land because all the trees in this certain area would be cut down eventually anyway. 

The finished product is a basket I will always treasure as a very special part of my collection.  One that tells a story of an unforgettable journey that I took with someone I love. 

After that it was time to return home, but there were many more basket making classes to be had this summer.  Stay tuned ;)  

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Willow Gathering 2018

This last June I was so excited to attend my very first Willow Gathering in Decorah, Iowa.  Months back I rushed in my registration and fortunately got into three classes held during the week. I had known about the willow gathering two years ago but each summer was either too late to register or couldn't make it due to conflicts.  But, this year I was determined to get there. Many of my weaving friends have told me how wonderful this gathering is and they were absolutely right. 

Decorah is about 16 hours from New Jersey so my boyfriend decided to come along on the trip with me to help driving.  Lucky me, I got to sleep most of the drive there.  Sunset in Ohio was gorgeous and we luckily found a Waffle House for dinner!  

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The Willow Gathering is organized by Jo Campbell-Amsler of Willow Ridge Basketry, and Lee Zieke of Willowglen Nursery.  These two amazing women and weavers arrange for basket makers from around the world to gather once a year at Luther College for a week of classes and all things willow related.  There were presentations, discussions and of course the classes all held by extraordinary teachers.  

During the week there is also a day off where everyone is able to get out and enjoy the area. Once I learned that Seed Savers Exchange was close by, I knew I wanted to go there.  We found our way despite a new road going in right in the way.  We got to walk around the property and see all the gardens.  I even had to purchase a few seeds, of course.     

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We also had time to do some shopping downtown Decorah.  I found some great antiques, and two beautiful chairs that I was able to purchase since my boyfriend drives a pick up truck.  I also got to quickly go to the farmers market before class one day and got some maple syrup and hand salve from local farms.  

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The very first class of the gathering I was actually working with Lene Rasmussen of Lakeshore Willows.  She is one of my very best willow friends.  If you know my work and travels, you know that I love spending time at Lene's farm.  She is one of the best resources for anyone interested in this craft.  This was her first year teaching at the gathering, but her 7th or 8th year attending. I got into her Polish Basket class.  

It turns out this basket is a very specific design and friends of ours in Poland took notice of our class work based on their traditional design.  You can read it here, google translate can help if you don't speak Polish. 

Lene is such a wonderful teacher and I can't recommend her classes enough.  I know I have written many times about her wonderful farm and classes in Canada.  So please check it out if you have any interested in willow basketry.  

Katherine Lewis of Dunbar Gardens said she also worked on this type of basket and was told by the teacher that this base was called the Tree of Life Base.  As you can see below it make sense why they would call it that. 

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It is such a beautiful and original design.  The thick handle and sloped front was reminiscent of a ship on the sea.  The feet on the bottom allow this basket to be used continually without destroying the bottom.  From what I understand this type of basket was made for gathering things like potatoes, or anything with substantial weight.  

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The second class I got to take was a willow bark purse with Katherine Lewis.  If you know anything about the willow world you probably know of Katherine or her work.  It is super hard to get into a class with Katherine because she only teaches in a few select places.  

She is on the opposite side of the USA from where I am, so it was a special treat to get to take this class.  This design was one she made for herself, but then was asked if she would consider teaching it in a class.  

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This was the first time I have ever taken a class with Katherine, and it was amazing to see how she works and teaches.  Everything was thought of and everything was perfectly planned out.  

As you can see below this purse is so gorgeous, and with a full leather liner also so very functional.  We braided the straps and attached a perfect little lid.  It was such a wonderful class, all that I can say is that I sincerely hope that I get the chance to work with Katherine again in the future.  

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The last class I took that week was a more sculptural freeform class with two local artists Pam Dennis and Ryk Weiss.  A great class to end the week with; we were given complete freedom to play with willow by nailing it together in all sorts of shapes.  Although it wasn't exactly basketry, it was still a really fun class.  I had such a great time and I really hope that I'll be able to get back to Iowa next year. 

So technically my trip should have ended here.....but it continues to Minnesota where I got to attend classes at the North House Folk School, but that will have to be in my next post ;)