Thanks for your interest in my basket craft! Because the process of creating a basket from gathered & grown materials to finished vessel is very slow, I offer baskets to the public on a seasonal basis in the form of small drops of available pieces.
The first step of purchasing a basket is to sign up on the mailing list below so you are notified directly when new baskets are ready.
Pricing for various baskets are included in the form, so feel free to browse around to get a sense for your budget.
Indicating which type of basket you're interested in purchasing helps me shape what to make for each new drop. I am currently not making commissions. Don't hesitate to reach out directly with any questions!
Bioregional Willow Basketry
My baskets begin with soil and water and sun. They begin with the riverbank, birdsong in spring, and new willow shoots inching their way toward the sky each warming day.
In summer, the roots of keystone native wild willow species deepen into moist soils of the wetlands and marshes all over so-called north America, strengthening watershed filtration and soil health where they grow and casting a wild abundance of food and habitat for our nonhuman neighbors.
In time, frost and mists begin to cover the fields, leaves turn yellow then brown. Sap flows back down into the ground, leaving the land awash in stands of glowing red, brown, purple - the subtle and beautiful palette of winter valleys in much of Turtle Island. Now, it is harvest time.
I refer to the specific process I have developed with willow as Bioregional Willow Basketry - a place-based, regenerative, and reverence focused approach to basketry centered on tending the plants & places that co-create my baskets in the context of a long term relationship.
Learning to tend these plants in specific places, rather than merely 'harvesting' or 'foraging' them, creates a reframe of approach that ultimately has the potential to ecologically benefit the places the willows grow. It also begins to cultivate in the weaver a powerful shift away from a colonial 'taker' mentality toward a path of stewardship and relationship that I believe we all need to cultivate in order to generate healthy relationships with the land.
Wild Tending & Regenerative Management
The main species of willow I currently use in my basketry are Salix interior and Salix exigua - sandbar and 'coyote' willow. These are keystone native plant species in most of the regions they grow, and are some of the main easily recognizable wild willow varieties throughout the southwestern, midwest, and eastern regions of North America.
I often hear willow basketry referred to as a 'sustainable' craft. In my experience, tending and growing willow for basketry is more than simply sustainable, and I believe it should be considered a form of ecological farming or conservation agriculture. The hundreds if not thousands of years old practice of keeping and coppicing willows for basketry and other uses in the common way we do in the west passed down from northern European traditions does not harm the willow plants. In fact, cutting them back each year, stimulates regrowth and actually replenishes the population by encouraging deeper root growth, producing more new and robust foliage than the year before, and in the case of wild willow, helping expand the colony and creating more food and habitat for ecological neighbors.
Many botanists believe willow evolved into the plant that it is through patterned ecological disturbance, via fire, floods, bison, beavers etc. So in coppicing willow, we mimic the ecological processes and conditions that historically help it grow, thrive, and spread. In the meantime, we get the opportunity to think like a beaver, see what the sandhill crane sees, navigate wetlands like a frog - all the while attuning to and becoming an active force in the multitudes of life living among and in partnership with the willow.
It is also becoming apparent that the ecological benefits of growing willow with regards to the ongoing impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly significant. In this bioregion, where hundred year floods are becoming an annual affair, willow propagation can be a direct tool for mitigating some of the negative impacts of climate change. Willow is well known for its ability to help quickly evaporate excess floodwater, filter heavy metals and other pollutants from the watery soils where they grow, and help control erosion of valuable life giving topsoil.
When coppiced, willows are rather extraordinary tools for carbon sequestration, perhaps one of the most important functions of an ecological and agricultural project of these times. A fast growing perennial, wild willow varieties that spread via rhizome can create robust new stands in just one growing season if the conditions are right, spreading through wetlands with their regenerative superpowers. One year of growth for wild and cultivated willows yields 4 - 7 ft of woodacious material per stem, flexible and strong enough to be woven and endure a lifetime of functional use. And all that woody growth coming up year after year, cut and woven into a basket, is pure carbon!
From Field to Basket
After all the fresh first year growth is coppiced in the field during winter, the willows are bundled and carried home to be meticulously sorted. After the sorting and labeling process is done, the bundles are put in a dry, dark place to cure for 6 months or more to make sure they are fully dry and free of sap before weaving. When the willows are fully cured 6 months later, they are rehydrated in water for several days, mellowed in a tarp, and if all goes well, finally ready for the actual work of weaving! Different sizes and types of baskets take varying amounts of time to weave, but one-two days is a pretty standard amount of time to expect give or take when building a new basket start to finish (not including very small or very large projects of course.)
Weaving a basket start to finish requires a surprisingly large amount of willow, and surprisingly few amount of tools! Both of these are some of the many reasons I starting learning this craft - I am most interested in processes I can engage with in which all of the tools and materials are already in my house or at my doorstep. In the bioregion where I live, there is a major abundance of willows already growing natively and available to be tended into good basketry willow. For the weaving process, I have only had to acquire a stock tank for soaking, a bodkin, a side cutters, and a handmade iron rapper for bashing down the basket walls when weaving. Beyond that, a person could weave a whole basket with just a knife if need be!
Willow and Folklore
Basketry is truly an ancient craft. People in every corner of the world have made baskets in infinite forms from local materials throughout history. Historically and archaeologically, where there have been people, there have been baskets! The techniques you see in my basketry come from the very old and well established northern and western European willow traditions. In fact, the way of making wicker stake and strand baskets has been basically unaltered through time, so my own basketry studio in terms of tools and techniques would appear nearly identical to that of a northern European weaver hundreds of years ago.
Willow has been long regaled as a magical and culturally significant plant wherever it grows. In Celtic mythology, the world and beginning of time itself is born from two golden eggs tucked in a Willow tree. Willows are seen as a source of great power, symbolizing youth of spirit and regenerative life energy. It is only in more recent times Willow has become a symbol of grief and sorrow, as we hear referenced in more modern folk tales and songs.
Wicker, wicca, witch; you guessed it- they are connected. The word 'wic' translates to 'to bend' in old English, as in, to bend the Willow sticks, and when Britain was urbanizing and converting peasants from the Old Ways to Christianity during the Dark Ages, the word 'wicca' was used as a kind of slang for dirty country people who were still doing stuff like using sticks to build their fencing or making baskets. Yes, Willow was so dearly a part of daily life for country folk back then that it became a derogatory term for the people!
Eventually, bending sticks became associated with bending and manipulating reality, mostly through propaganda generated by early Christian priests, and thence came the negative associations with "wicca" and "witchcraft" - those old weavers and stick benders who could bend reality with their magic and wiles (they weren't wrong!). Mournfully, such associations eventually led to the wider mass genocide of 'witches', who were mostly women, but also anyone who dared keep the old traditions and life ways alive on the margins of society.
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 friends and teachers like Lee Zieke, Zac Fittipaldi, Mo Walrath, several excellent books including authors Sally Goymer, Jenny Crisp, & Sue Gabriel, and most of all, the Willows themselves. 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 living people, especially those with histories erased by colonization, might have access to the traditional crafts and lands their people have known for generations, despite the many forces that have tried to erase them and their ways.