Willow Baskets with Bonnie Gale

Two weeks ago, I traveled back down to North Carolina to spend a week at the John C. Campbell Folk School.  I spent a whole week making baskets with Bonnie Gale, a traditional willow basket maker and living willow artist. 

I was so excited to get down to the school for a second time.  This year I was lucky to have the most amazing roommate, who was so inspirational and uplifting.   We got to spend our time in the Rock House (pictured below) which had the best front porch, and was very close to the school's main buildings. 

This year I felt like my minutes were all counted for, but I still had time to walk around the property in the evenings.  The gardens and fields all bursting with golden colors, and the hundreds of birds busy with activity.   

So each day we worked for about 6+ hours.  This year I chose to work on oval baskets.  I've had my eye on a few since last year and I was so excited to get working learning something brand new.  Below is the base to my backpack.  I was nervous working with the bigger willow because last time my hands were killing me by the end of the week.  This year I was pleasantly surprised at the ease I had handling this bigger material.  

A returning class mate worked on this basket too and we both worked tirelessly for about 2 and a half days to get them completed.  All that work, but I think we were the talk of the school by the end of it! 

The second basket I worked on was a classic French Crocane or oval arm basket.  This basket was quite the challenge because it was the first time I worked with Buff Willow and it required a close attention to detail.  

Turns out that I loved working with the Buff and the whole baskets was a great learning experience.  I even bough a few pounds of the buff willow to bring home with me.  

The one thing I have left to do is rework the handle on this basket. The first one I put on didn't have enough turns or rods.  I also think I will do a much better job roping the buff willow now that I've had some practice. 

Last but not least, this beauty (pictured below) wasn't fully made this week.  I actually spent two days with Bonnie in the fall making most of what she calls the "Monster Garden Basket."  It is actually a pattern that was originally designed by a very famous basket maker named, Alastair Heseltine.  I wasn't able to complete the basket because of time constraints, but I knew I would be seeing her again. The only things that I needed to do to get this basket done was add the handle and the feet.

I am so happy with how it came out! 

Unfortunately it turns out that this was the last time that Bonnie will be teaching at John C. Campbell, but I know it won't be the last time I see her.  She teaches all over the country at different conventions, so I know I'll be seeing her somewhere else in the future.

There are so many basket classes at the school that I am very interested in taking, so next year I'll be on the look out to learn something brand new.  And maybe I'll even convince someone to travel with me!

Sandra KehoeComment