For our last gathering of the year we went back to Iden Green Pavilion (our super cost effective local village hall), trying our hands at bark weaving.
At the back end of the summer John Burbage worked out how to make a more portable "Bodgers shelter" (which will be at BB2020) This fantastic device required a number of willow poles to be harvested, which we decided to remove the bark from. A fairly random conversation with Lisa Atkin (Follow her on Instagram @lisa_atkin_basketmaker) over email just prior to the event suggested we save the bark for a future project.
Fast forward a few months Lisa visited us and took away some bark for a "practice", and the rest was put into storage.
All too soon we were almost ready for bark day, people had started to "book in" for the day, a LOT of people. Wisely Lisa came to visit and inspect our bark and between us figure out a plan for the day. It was apparent that the bark we had in stock was not that great, and with the number of people planning to attend we might have a challenge, so Plan B was to let everyone know, and suggest some alternative materials which would also be suitable.
While we usually start at 10, by 09:15 there was a queue of people at the door! We're a pretty well oiled group now so the room was set up rapidly, and after signing in we introduced the day and got ready to go. A number of people had brought leather , or strong card to work with, the rest headed off to the bark store. Being fair we gave "first dibs" to those who harvested the bark. Then Amy arrived with yet more bark, hurrah!
Lisa says the initial stages of weaving a plaited basket can feel akin to wrestling an octopus,
To change the bark from rock solid to flexible we needed to soak it in hot water, in preparation I had the bark in (cold) water for a week which helped speed up the process a little. The down side of needing lots of hot water of this was tea and coffee was delayed.
Lisa gave a brief introduction and showed some of her baskets and as always the Bodgers launched into production. Cutting bark into strips, using a knife and ruler was slow, but the
Tandy Leather "Table Top Lace Cutter" was able to cut accurate strips in bulk very rapidly (We do love a new tool!)
We settled on three different styles of baskets; a one-piece basket made by cutting around a template, folding and sewing the bark, and two "Bias Plaited" options; a square based one and a pouch both made using strips.
Once the strips were cut everyone started to make their chosen basket, weaving a square base first (Which for reference needed to have an EVEN number of strips in each direction). the next step was to decide which style of weaving / basket shape we were going to create.
As we started to build the sides of the baskets the octopus started to fight back. It was amusing to see some people who "just got it" and others who spent much of the day fighting the poor chap.
The leather workers split into two groups, those who had thin stiff leather (who were ahead of the game), and those who had thick or floppy leather (who were struggling).
We generally worked with 2 foot lengths of material, and once we ran out of material to weave we were ready to finish basket, and if interested to add a rim to finish off the basket.
As always the day ended with a number of people finishing their baskets, and some homework required elsewhere. Some made 2 or 3 baskets, while Richard made something you could almost live in!
Lots of great work, some superb baskets made, and I think next time we are at Johns there will be a rush of people offering to help harvest willow and strip the bark!
A very popular workshop using what would otherwise be a waste material, we will add this into next years schedule.
In the background Mark was making Leather tankards, he seems to be near the end of the current batch.
Thanks Lisa for helping to create so many new baskets, and inspire a whole new bunch of (bark) basket makers