Anni Zylstra is a teacher, farmer, folk artist, organizer, musician, and traditional stake and strand willow basketmaker living and working in Southwest so-called Wisconsin.
Anni creates lively and imaginative basketry work using traditional northern European techniques & both homegrown and wild coppiced plants. Their work is inspired by the bright, wild colors of the winter prairies and wetlands where they and the willow live, the everyday nature of baskets, and the sheer age of this craft which has never been industrialized and predates most other human crafts and tools.
Anni has been working with willow for the last six years, and has studied with basketmakers on this continent and in England and Wales. They are a 2023-25 recipient of the Springboard for the Arts Rural Regenerator Fellowship.
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Heirloom Quality Baskets
If you're interested in purchasing basketry work, kindly fill out the form below and you'll be notified about seasonal sale dates, as well as learning opportunities and more. You can find basket pricing information as well as indicate the type of work you're interested in in the form.
Basketry Classes & Private Lessons
Anni offers seasonal group classes in beginner-level stake and strand willow basketry, as well as one-to-one private lessons from their studio on the farm. Learning to work with willow, whether it's to make one basket or a hundred, is an incredibly rewarding journey, and Anni loves supporting learners as they weave. You can read more about our winter basketry class offerings or how to book a lesson here!
Heritage Willow Cuttings & Nursery
Anni is currently growing around 20 heritage willow varieties on 5 acres of mixed prairie and orchard on the west fork of the Kickapoo River. The plants will be in full production in 2025, so stay tuned for updates on how to purchase nursery willows if you're looking to grow your own willow for weaving, teaching, land remediation, floristry, hedge-rowing, live fence, and more. Anni will have the first cuttings from a handful of varieties available in Spring 2024.
Handwoven Willow Caskets
In fall of 2023, Anni completed a willow casketmaking course in the UK, and is working toward opening a working willow casketry practice that will serve deathworkers and green burial organizations in the the extended area. Get on the mailing list to stay in the loop!
Though I have never had the opportunity for in depth basketry apprenticeship with any one teacher, the tradition of basketmaking with Willow as I know it was passed to me in little bits from teachers Clare Revera of Welsh Baskets, Jane Welsh, Sophia Campbell, Lee Zieke of Willowglen, and friends Zac Fittipaldi, Mo Walrath, as well as several excellent books including authors Sally Goymer, Jenny Crisp, & Sue Gabriel.
And truthfully, I may always regard the willows themselves as the greatest teacher I've ever had. I spent so many hours in the early days of basketmaking consulting the willows in lieu of proper instruction, making mistakes and funny looking baskets that I still love so much. The willows taught me lasting lessons in resilience, flexibility, firmness, forgiveness, and so much more.
I give thanks to these amazing plants, the waters and sandy soils where they grow on occupied Ho-Chunk / Oceti Sakowin lands - whose people have unique and beautiful basketry traditions of their own. I give thanks to my weaving ancestors, wherever they lived, whatever joy and toil of life they knew that led to me being alive and also weaving. May we all hold clear a vision in our hearts that all people, especially those with histories erased by colonization, might have access to the traditional crafts, lands, and cultural ways their people have known for generations.