Willow bark basketry with Maggie Smith

I’ve just returned from a three-day workshop on willow bark basketry with the wonderful Maggie Smith. Having worked with neither willow nor bark before, I was slightly worried, but Maggie’s work is fabulous so I couldn’t pass up the chance.

baskets by maggie smith baskets by maggie smith baskets by maggie smith

We started by learning how to strip the bark from willow, with a knife, willow brake or by pounding. Easing the bark off around joints or knots without tearing it can be tricky!

maggie smith stripping willow

But by lunchtime on the first day we had all started to pile up little rolls of bark. The colour of the interior was amazing, ranging from pale yellow to chartreuse green to deep orange. However, this colour does tend to fade as the bark dries.

willow bark stripping willow bark rolls

Maggie told us to discard any preconceived ideas about what we wanted to make and study the bark very carefully to see what was suggested by the marks and texture.

willow bark exterior willow bark interior

I liked the arrangement of holes on one of my pieces of bark so decided to make a pouch consisting of a random weave container wrapped in a whole piece of bark.

The next day we learnt how to cut the bark into even strips, and I started making my random weave piece around a sawdust mould.

willow bark random weave willow bark random weave

Then I cut the whole piece of bark to length, punched holes in it and wrapped the container, stitching on a handle to keep it in position.

willow bark random weave

I left it to dry overnight and the next day managed the tricky task of removing the mould without damaging the bark!

As I had a bit of time left, I also made another coiled piece, using different widths of willow bark strips.

willow bark coiling

Here are the two final finished pieces.

willow bark baskets by Kim Winter

And here are some of the wonderfully diverse and inspiring pieces produced by other students in the class.

willow bark baskets willow bark baskets

Even better, I managed to add willow bark to my cordage collection!

willow bark cordage

 

Prism Textiles “Fragility” exhibition

My first exhibition with Prism, the international exhibiting group of textile artists, is fast approaching. The theme is “Fragility”, and you can get a glimpse of the various ways this has been interpreted on the Prism blog.

My piece, called “One in Five”, was inspired by the effect we humans are having on our fragile environment: scientists at Kew Gardens estimate that one in five plant species are in danger of extinction due to activities such as intensive farming, deforestation and construction.

I have made five stylised seeds combining felt and paper yarn, to represent the fragility of the environment in general as well as their own precarious existence.

The five seeds loosely represented are sycamore (maple in US), dandelion, bean pod, physalis and sweet chestnut.

Sycamore seed by Kim WinterDandelion seed by Kim WinterBeanpod by Kim WinterPhysalis by Kim WinterSweet chestnut by Kim Winter

The hardest part was working out the best way to display them, as in the London gallery we cannot suspend things from the ceiling. Luckily, I managed to find a windfall branch with an interesting shape and lots of lovely lichen. This can be mounted on the wall with the seeds hanging from it.

One in Five by Kim Winter

All photos of my work by Owen Llewellyn.

Fragility runs at Hoxton Arches, Arch 402, Cremer Street, London E2 8HD, from 29 May to 9 June. The private view is on Tuesday 28 May, 7-8.30pm, to which you are all warmly invited!

Kinetic peapod

A while ago, after experimenting with random weave puzzle balls, I made a multilayered set of random weave spheres in neutral colours.

random weave spheres

I then decided to develop this into a multistorey set of three multilayered spheres, but with only three layers each. (Still with me?)

I started with three random weave white paper spheres of different sizes.

Then I created another mould around them and wove another layer on top.

I joined them all together into a single mould.

And then wove around this single mould with black fibre (string and hemp).

Then it was time to remove the moulds! After removal of first mould:

After removing the second layer of moulds:

And finally after removing the innermost moulds:

The spheres in the middle layer touch each other. This was not my original intention, but I found it difficult to weave the joining “necks” narrow enough to prevent it. This means that when you move one sphere, the others move too, which adds an unplanned kinetic touch to the piece!

Made 2019 at Morley Gallery

The current exhibition at Morley Gallery, Made 2019, features work by textiles and jewellery students at Morley College. The theme is based on cultural patterns and form inspired by Oceania.

Thanks to the basketry course I did last term with Stella Harding I was able to submit an entry to the exhibition. My piece, “Vision of Jawun”, was inspired by the bicornual baskets known as jawun made by the rainforest people in northeast Queensland in Australia.

Jawun were used to collect and carry food and also as sieves to leach out toxic substances. Typically made from lawyer cane, the baskets were sometimes painted when used for trading or as gifts.

random weave paper vessel dyed with eucalyptus
Image: Owen Llewellyn
random weave paper vessel dyed with eucalyptus
Image: Owen Llewellyn
random weave paper vessel dyed with eucalyptus
Image: Owen Llewellyn

My interpretation of a jawun is a random weave piece made with paper yarn; the lower part was dyed with eucalyptus, a plant indigenous to Australia.

The private view last Wednesday was absolutely heaving with people by the time I arrived, and it took me a while to locate my piece. To my surprise, rather than being on a plinth it was hung on a nail at around hip height. Because the gallery was so crowded I could see that the vessel was in danger of being damaged – within just a couple of minutes of my arrival one visitor had stepped back against it, while another one hit it with her bag as she squeezed past. 😦

I’m afraid at this stage I got a bit prima donna-ish and removed the piece from the wall. When I gave it to the gallery manager and explained why, she was very nice and understanding about it. And when I went back to the gallery today to look at the exhibition with more breathing space, it had been placed on a plinth, thank goodness.

There were a couple of pieces from other basketry students.

This random weave piece by Barbara Billings was a comment on pollution in the oceans and how rubbish floats on top of the mess hiding below the surface.

Alyson Burberry, A Green Bag of Rubbish

“A Green Bag of Rubbish” by Alyson Burberry was made with found objects, shower sponges and rope, and was also based on Aboriginal hunting bags.

Cherry Taylor, Ceremonial Objects

Deserved winner of the Sarah Campbell Prize was Cherry Taylor for her found objects wrapped with raffia dyed with procion dyes and inks.

Sarah McEvoy, Cailleach and Brighde

I liked Sarah McEvoy’s knitted figure embellished with seeds and crystal, inspired by dolls that Japanese farmers hang outside windows to bring good weather or prevent rain.

The Japanese influence was strong overall. This kimono-style jacket by Sarah Wilson was made using shibori, sashiko and boro techniques from material sourced in second-hand shops.

Line Le Fevre, Noren Inspired

Hung to resemble a traditional kimono, Line Le Fevre’s four hand-dyed panels were printed with discharge and dye paste.

Bukki Adeyemo, Up in Arms

Bukki Adeyemo’s “Up in Arms” used recycled materials stained with rust to represent the potential impact of rising sea levels on  many of the Pacific Islands due to climate change.

Sarah Sikorski, screen printed cotton

Sarah Sikorski’s screen printed cotton was inspired by tapa bark cloth from Tonga, which portrays historic or cultural events – in this case the overuse and irresponsible disposal of plastic objects.

Finally – look away now if you are easily offended. 😉 Karen Byrne’s piece was a response to the dilukai sculptures of young women with splayed legs carved over the doorways of chiefs’ houses in Micronesia.

Karen Byrne, Dilukai

Made 2019 runs at Morley Gallery until 26 March.

Basketry at Morley with Stella Harding

For the past few weeks I’ve been back at Morley College on Tuesday evenings, attending a creative basketry course with Stella Harding. The focus of this course, though I didn’t know it when I signed up, was random weaving, so I’ve been able to build on the classes I did with Polly Pollock earlier this year.

Stella brought along lots of inspiring samples.

We started by making open and closed forms in cane without using moulds, which was new to me. We also had a go at dyeing cane.

Now we’ve been let loose on experimenting for ourselves, with different materials and forms – here are some of the pieces I’ve made.

This is a more complex form in cane. Apparently this style is known as a hen basket – I can just imagine a chicken sitting in there. 🙂

This was a random weave piece I made using dead fronds from some kind of palm in my back garden. I have no idea where it came from and have always thought it rather unattractive – but it’s great for basketry material!

And this is a piece that combines felt and paper yarn, inspired by a physalis (cape gooseberry).

Some of these samples are helping me work up ideas for a couple of exhibitions coming up next year – watch this space!

Second random weave puzzle ball

After my first attempt at a random weave puzzle ball I was determined to try again incorporating what I’d learnt. This time I went for five layers!

random weave puzzle ball

The inner three layers were woven from hemp that I bought at the textile market in Belgium. The innermost ball is black, so you can’t see it very well. (Lesson for next time – make the inside ball a light colour!)

The fourth layer was made from paper yarn dyed with onion skins.

And the outer layer was paper yarn dyed with indigo.

random weave puzzle ball

With five layers it was even more fiddly to get the inner moulds out, but I got there eventually without destroying the outer layers. I’m not sure I could do any more layers though!

I also had a go at making a random weave cube – this was a harder shape to mould. Because I left open areas it was also harder to photograph, as it’s difficult to distinguish the different surfaces.

open weave cube open weave cube