My Introduction to Willow

As I think about how much I have learned in a year, I was compelled to write the story of how my journey into willow baskets started.  I just recently paid my bill in full to visit again this May, and I am giddy just thinking about another great adventure to this beautiful place in the world. 

Almost a year ago I had discovered a school called the John C. Campbell Folk School.  I was signed up for a white oak basketry class, but as I was searching through their catalog I noticed a class in willow baskets.  I singed up only to discover the class was full, but they asked if I would like to be placed on a waiting list, and I said most definitely.  

Only two months before the classes started I received the phone call I was hoping I would get.  A spot opened up, and I immediately canceled the white oak class and made the arrangements for a week of willow. 

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I can still remember my excitement.  I had discovered that baskets were still being made out of willow but never believed I would ever find someone teaching it.  Now that I know how few and far between these classes are in America, I am forever grateful for the luck I had.  

The trip to the school was oddly enough the very first time I had ever traveled alone.  A fourteen hour car drive was exhilarating, fun and monumentally freeing for me at that particular point in my life.   

The class was being run by Bonnie Gale.  I had found her website through my research, but it always seemed impossible that I would ever get to meet her.  Now I can say without a doubt the connection we have made is one that has made a very big impact on my life.  


The school is remarkably beautiful as you can see, and I can not say enough to the spirit of everyone who makes this place unlike any other.  The atmosphere is one of love, learning and understanding.  Almost everyone I met was a beginner in the craft they were learning.  And what an array of work being done that week.  

I wish I could take a number of different classes here, but for now, willow is my way.

We started our week with learning the Early American Lunch Basket.  A pattern by Bonnie.  The rest of the week we were allowed to work on our choice.  I decided to go with a Bushel Basket and a Polish Bread Basket.   

At one point in the class I remember Bonnie saying that "the willow will speak to some of us." And that it did!  The intoxicating smell and feel of willow is unlike anything I had ever encountered.   Along with Bonnie's bright personality and humor it was a hysterical delight every class.  

Every time I smell soaked willow I am immediately transported back to this time in my history, and I can't help but smile.  I am beyond excited to get back down to the school this coming May for another week with Bonnie.  

Sandra KehoeComment