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  • Writer's pictureTravelling Weaver

Sourcing, cutting and planting willow locally

On Boxing day I returned to a Co-operative Housing scheme in Leintwardine where they have a wonderful wetland drainage system for their sewage. It is five years since they planted their willow, and it is skilfully laid out around three large ponds. These form a wetland drainage system. This system relies purely on a natural management of waste and the controlled variation in the pH levels in the ponds, which differs according to the vegetation growing

Travelling Weaver Sophie Francis Willow at Earthworms Cooperative Housing Leintwardine

within and around the site.

All the willow around the ponds is beautifully varied and the colours on a frosty winter’s morning are stunning. This is the third year I have been helping out with cutting the willow. Each year I appreciate it more and I have learnt a great deal about the process and grading of the rods through cutting.

Taking time in this peaceful and absorbing task suddenly feels like the most relevant aspect of the craft. As Alex Langlands reminds us in his thought provoking book “ Craeft: HowTraditional Crafts Are About More Than Just Making” there is a strive to move away from mass produced items to artisan and hand-made. However, alongside this we can forget that craft also encompasses something less tangible than the items made. The “Old English word Craeft possessed an almost indefinable sense of knowledge, wisdom and power”. The sustainability and locality of where materials are sourced is even more relevant today than ever.

I am really excited about this local resource as I have decided not to buy willow from commercial producers using pesticides on the crop. This means that I will have to think carefully about what I make. The diversity in the colour these willows offer mean that I want to concentrate on how I can best develop and display this valuable resource, while also thinking about the purpose the item is intended for.

This has come full circle as a wonderful neighbour has offered for me to plant willow around his pond, so next year I will be able to start cutting small amounts of my own willow, inshallah…

Because we don't know what all the varieties are at Leintwardine are in 2019 I intend to focus on learning more about the varieties as well as ways in which I can develop my skills as a basket maker.

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