Though I am not an apprentice served qualified basketmaker and some of my efforts would no doubt get some severe criticism in such company, I make a whole variety and my customers all seem happy with the results, which is what matters to me.
If you need a special or an odd basket for an interesting purpose, ask me.
Here's Cecilia Hewett's use of one of my shopping baskets to display some of her favourite tools.
Cecilia is well known in Cumbria for her sewing, spinning and weaving .
A New Zealand made version of the Flemish chicken basket. This is the first try at this tricky basket, made by Nicola Basham who lives on the South Island
Here are photos of my bike baskets,
as requested by someone at Maldon.
||Bike front basket with built in hooks to go over the bars.|
It's quite easy to lift the basket off the bike.
||Side view of the same basket.|
On this bike there is a bracket under the basket to take the weight - not entirely necessary.
||top view, showing the extra strong "underfoot" base, neat strong "four behind two rod" border, and the two hooks|
||The pair of panier baskets are also built with metal hooks and are secured in place with a bunjee.|
They are quick and simple to remove and fit.
||Here the two hooks are visible.|
The basket and its contents can be carried away easily.
Other willow baskets on my list have been some skeps for a film company. These were the first time I had used brown willow, which still has its bark on, It's nice to work with and flexible once it has spent a couple of days in the pond soaking. There are pictures in the beekeeping section.
Instructions for DIY willow skep, see below.
I have also been asked for pannier baskets for a horse, a mediaeval horse, not a modern one. Picture of first attempt below, on a garden chair to show the size. Since taking this picture I have relocated the handle to nearer the back, which is flat and rests against the horse.
I am now on my third attempt at this basket and getting smoother results. It has been pointed out how nice it might look with a liner , filled with flowers and hanging on a wall
Besides the panniers I have been asked to make some winnowing fans, which are flat wide baskets with a narrow wall at the back but none at the front, Though these are OK to make in buff willow they are proving much more difficult in brown willow which is slippery and does not hold its shape like buff willow.
The dung covered (cloomed)wicker skeps mentioned on the skep page are also for this assignment.
Making willow baskets is for me a development from my straw skep making. Skeps were quite often made from hedgerow sticks and finished with a coat of plastered on mud and cow dung mixture. This coating is called clooming.
The pictures below show my attempts at copying a Flemish 16th century chicken basket, taken from an oil painting of the period. I made these at the request of Laurence Smith who is an artist very interested in paintings from that period. However, they have since been sold as a present to a Dutch chicken fancier - could it be more appropriate?
Detail of the lid. which is attached unlosably to the carrying handle.
The two chicken baskets, The near one is the better, the far one having been made just to work out what to do when making. The two shopping baskets, also my own, are there to show the scale.
The two chicken baskets with their lids off to show the neck details. The newer one on the left is more faithful to the original in the paintings.
Make Your Own Willow Skep
I am assuming you have some basic idea of willow basketmaking.
Select 8 stronger base sticks about 30cm long and about 40 thinner weavers, plus 32 medium thickness stakes, for extending the slath into the walls.
The method is to make a normal slath for the base of a round basket, with 4 sticks crossing 4 and pairing out to about 15cm or 20cm diameter. However, over-emphasise the normal curvature of the slath so that it becomes a shallow bowl shape. Then, rather than the usual setting up and waling of a basket with distinct walls and floor, cut the radial sticks off flush and push in a fresh slyped stake on each side of each end of the original radial sticks, making a 32 stake star shape. Rather than turn a sharp corner, continue to work round bringing the walls gradually in to form the well-known beehive shape. I used slewing for this, for simplicity and speed, but you could rand it any way you prefer, so long as you get the steady curve from the centre to the edge making the dome shaped skep.
Continue until the walls are vertical and deep enough, then add a three rod wale and make a border from the remaining stakes. I used a 4 rod behind 2 border, but anything will do so long as it is strong enough.
The clooming, if you do it, will cover up all your work, so you might as well work in the fastest rather than the most stylish way.
Add a handle. One strong stick will make a good loop handle at the top of this skep - made the usual way with an arch of the thick end of the stick wrapped with the rest of it twisted as it runs back and forth, wrapping some of the stronger sticks in the slath.
A close look at the photos in the SKEPMAKING page will make this all clearer, I hope.