Learn Willow Basketry
I am currently scheduling on-farm one-to-one basketry students at for December 2023 at my studio near Westby, Wisconsin for Winter 2024!
Read more and fill out the lessons interest form below!
I am thrilled to now be able to offer one-on-one lessons in traditional stake and strand style willow basketrty to those looking to begin their journey with willow or sharpen up their beginner level basket skills.
There are several options listed below for both local and further flung students, and once you decide what sort of curriculum you're looking for, you can fill out the interest form and I'll get back to you via email to schedule.
Though I've only been working with willow for 6 years myself, I have many years' experience teaching beginner level learners and am skilled at accommodating diverse learning styles as folks begin to cultivate this highly challenging new skill.
I have made teaching a priority in my practice as a working craftsperson because I know from personal experience what a barrier lack of access to readily available and quality instruction can be for learning this difficult craft.
Students taking one-to-one lessons receive quality and attentive individual instruction and can expect to complete beautiful basketry work *and* depart with the skills to continue learning and weaving on their own.
Also, because lessons take place at our basketry willow farm, all private lessons students have the opportunity to get hands-on knowledge of material preparation in addition to weaving; including information about growing and processing basketry willow, wild coppicing native varieties, how to store, sort, soak, and more. These skills are essential for students interested in continued practice.
"The three-day basketweaving intensive was perfect for me to learn the basics of willow weaving and then feel comfortable continuing to practice on my own at home. Anni was such a good teacher - really thorough and knowledgeable, as well as friendly, encouraging and laid back. I loved seeing her willow farm, and I enjoyed spending time with her while I learned. I hope to be able to come back and continue lessons sometime in the future!"
I try to pay myself a living wage as a craftsperson, and charge approximately $30 / hour for lessons time, which includes extensive prep time and all necessary materials.
The minimum lessons time I offer for beginners is two full work days. I recommend at least 3 days for those who want instruction in material preparation included in their learning curriculum.
Learning to work with willow requires a significant investment of time, focus, and commitment. It's almost always more difficult than what folks' expect, and I've heard craftspeople say it's one of the most difficult crafts they've ever tried to learn. Teaching this challenging specialty skill to beginners in a comprehensive way that allows for continued practice is intensive, and I try to reflect that in the tuition for lessons.
As noted, materials are included in 2 and 3 day lessons curriculums. Longer term studies may include a daily material fee to account for more materials used. For reference, it costs around $40 in materials to make a medium sized basket.
If students have willow of their own that I am able to check over and deem suitable for their desired projects, the included material fee can be reduced from tuition.
2-Day Beginner Course - $420
Depending on student skill level, the student can expect to complete at least one beautiful, durable round-based stake and strand basket, and have the basic skills to be able to continue study on their own. We will work from 9 - 5, and you will receive 14 hours of instruction, basketry materials, and informational materials for continued learning.
3-Day Beginner Course- $600
Depending on student skill level, students will complete 1-2 round-based stake and strand baskets, get an introduction to material preparation so they can continue study easily at home, and will receive all basketry materials. Learning to coppice one's own willow for weaving projects is an essential skill for continued practice, and if the lessons are in during willow season and the student requests, we can take a field trip to coppice wild willow.
Longer Term Learning
If you're looking for longer term and/or ongoing instruction, you're welcome to apply for a longer term learning option. Longer term students are invited to either come to the farm for 5 full days of intensive instruction, or structure a repeating lesson schedule suitable to ongoing education with the willow. Longer term students have the advantage of getting to develop their skills with the willow in a deeper way and get to cocreate a learning curriculum that suits their individual learning goals and needs over time. This is for the more serious basketmaker who wants to develop the full range of skills needed for continued independent craft.
Simple, rustic accommodations are available on the farm for visiting students for $30 / night. Students should be prepared to bring their own food for the duration of their stay, and be comfortable being self sufficient within a rustic setup if choosing a farm stay option.
While it's my goal to make willow work as accessible as possible, weaving the baskets, preparing the materials, and being on site all require a degree of able-bodiedness that is sadly exclusive to some. Working with willow requires a surprising degree of physical strength and dexterity, and many able-bodied people with no chronic illness or pain issues leave an intensive period of weaving with some degree of bodily pain. Additionally, our current available teaching space requires climbing a steep flight of stairs for entry.
In many cases, folks with certain physical disabilities or movement disorders, arthritis or chronic pain of the upper body or hands, or small children or elderly people may not be able to make baskets with willow. However, though learning a complex new skill is challenging for anyone and especially for disabled and neurodiverse people, I (Anni) as a fellow neurodivergent am very capable of supporting neurodiverse students in a successful basketry study.
Work Exhange Program
Limited work trade slots are available to cover full and partial tuition for all of the learning options available. Work trade opportunities happen primarily in the transitional seasons: April - May and October - December.
Work exchangers spend their days on our small, perennial/agroforestry based farm, helping tend to native, medicinal, and perennial plants and helping maintain the systems that support our educational opportunities here. The farm is situated on 27 acres on the Kickapoo River, and is a beautiful place to spend some days working outdoors.
Some possible trade activities one could expect in work trade positions are: prepping garden beds; invasive species removal; planting, harvesting, and sorting willow; planting and tending fruit and nut trees; making and maintaining trails; infrastructure maintenance, and more.
The work trade exchange works like this: I compensate work exchangers starting at $15 / hour - a slightly above average wage for comparable work that requires a lot of training in our area.
The work trade slots are competitive, and I prioritize workers who:
1. Are flexible during timeframes in which work projects are happening and help is needed, which can be unpredictable given the nature of farming
2. Are able to work hard outdoors for long hours in a variety of weather situations, including very cold and wet
3. Have prior farm or physical labor experience and possibly references available for that work
4. Who may not otherwise be able to access the learning opportunities offered
2-Day Intensive • Full Work Trade • Staying on Farm
2 days x 7 hours a day = 14 hours of study
14 hours of study x $30/hour for = $420
2 nights accommodations = $60
Dollar value of the course: $480
When the work exchange rate is applied, this equals out to around 30 hours of work trade, or around 5 full work days on the farm
This work exchange program has been informed by my own experience as a work exchanger at various places and phases, which allowed me to have valuable experiences I may not otherwise have had. It is designed with great care and is intended to give more folks an opportunity to access this education, while ensuring the offering is still properly valued.
If you want to propose a trade of goods for lessons, some acceptable trades are: home-raised meat, hands-on bodywork, skilled craft wares like furniture, bark or brain tanned leather, etc., and potentially 2 or 3D art in limited capacity.
Since request rates are high: trades I almost never accept are herbal wares, CSA shares, coaching, non-hands-on wellness offerings (astrology, reiki, etc).
A Plant for the Times
Our ancestors wove baskets. Basketmaking is one of the original ways humans around the world constructed the containers needed for every day use throughout history. And generally speaking, the way we weave willow today is the same way people wove thousands of years ago. This is because willow work has never been machinized, materials are grown or gathered straight from the earth, and few tools are needed for construction.
As an agricultural endeavor, willow is an excellent choice of perennial crop to add to farm, homestead, urban garden, or landscaping project for a number of reasons. It is a keystone species in the many places it grows as a native, supporting life of a myriad of plant, animal, and insect companions. It helps drain and evaporate flood waters, removes heavy metals and other pollutants from soil and thus watersheds, and combats erosion of topsoil.
Also, and arguably most importantly, willow is a wildly understated powerhouse crop for carbon sequestration. Because of the sheer amount of woodacious material - aka carbon - even a small coppice produces when cut back each year, willow deserves a front and center spotlight in the regenerative farming and carbon sequestration research fields.
As climate chaos increases around the world, we must have all hands on deck in every level of the fight to mitigate and minimize the harms happening to humans and nonhumans alike - especially those who are most vulnerable to its impacts. For those of us with access to even a small amount of land, applying agricultural practices that get carbon out of the atmosphere and into the soil - and in this case, into baskets and other functional crafts - is both a graspable and essential way to engage in climate activism.
At the same time, in a world overrun with earth-killing plastics and impossibly fragile global supply chains, I believe it is essential we return to & reinvent sustainable traditional crafts in order to reduce our reliance on mass-produced fossil fuel-dependent goods whose production & waste streams endanger life on earth. Because this great need is naturally coalescing with a time in history when people around the world are longing to reconnect with the land, with old ways of living with the earth, and craft better futures for all, many eager new willow weavers are appearing at this moment all over the map.
And so, as a response to all of the above, I want you to envision with me a full scale willow revival in the bioregions this incredible plant teacher loves to grow. Picture every town and city filling its unused lawn or empty land sites not filled with perennial food crops with willow grows that support a local economy of basketmakers providing the containers needed by the immediate local community. Picture the beautiful rainbow of bark lighting up our public spaces, bringing color and cheer and life to our landscapes.
This is why I grow willow, why I weave, why I choose to teach this craft despite the long hours and hard work and difficulty to make a living. We are not just weaving baskets when we pick up the rod and the knife - we are weaving a new world with pieces of the old one, paving a way for a more imaginable future for those to whom we will be the weaving ancestors.