Work with Willow

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A Plant for the Times

Our ancestors wove baskets. Basketmaking is one of the original ways humans around the world constructed the containers we need everyday 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.

 

There are infinite varieties of basketry techniques found around the world - even just within the medium of willow - and basketry styles are highly localized and dependent on the land and cultures from which they emerge. The style of basketry Anni practices and shares is a hybrid of northwestern European (England, France, Ireland) techniques in the stake and strand wicker category. 

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. These facts coalesce at 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. As a response to all of the above, I want to propose a full scale willow revival in all of the bioregions this incredible plant teacher loves to grow. Envision every town and city filling whatever unused lawn or empty land sites not filled with food with willow grows that support a local economy of basketmakers who provide the containers needed by the immediate local community.

 

This is why I grow willow, why I weave, why I choose to teach 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.

 
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Work with Anni 1-on-1

 

Starting Fall 2022, I am thrilled to be able to offer one-on-one lessons and mini apprenticeships to those looking to begin their journeys as willow weavers at Red Tail Farm in Bloomingdale Wisconsin.

I know from experience that finding willing and quality instruction in beginner willow basketry is exceptionally difficult. This is why, though I am far from an expert in the vast, multidimensional, and ancient craft of willow basketry, I prioritize sharing this craft with others as one way of being a working craftsperson. Also, as a neurodivergent and hands-on learner, I am skilled at accommodating multiple learning styles as new folks begin to cultivate this challenging and rewarding new skill. I especially loves holding space for queer, trans, and other folks who have traditionally been more excluded from folk / traditional skills spaces, as well as learners who are interested in cultivating long-term, reciprocal, well-tended relationship with the willows.

 

Students taking lessons will receive the highest quality individual instruction and can expect to complete beautiful basketry work they will be proud of, as well as the skills to continue with the craft on their own. There are several options available for both local and further flung students, and you can view packages and apply below. I will get back to applicants shortly with availability and next steps.

 

If you are applying from outside the midwest, I may see if you're interested in being connected with a more local teacher if there are any near you, though I'm open to accepting students from anywhere.

 

Work trade and partial work trade are seasonally available for all packages, which are all offered on a sliding scale.

Packages for Local Students

 2-Day Beginner Immersion - Sliding Scale $225 - $400

2 days is the minimum study time for beginner-level local students. In 2-day immersions, students will commute daily to Anni's workshop and should be prepared to work each day for two full days in a row from from 9 AM - 5 PM. Depending on student skill level, the student can expect to complete at least one round-based stake and strand basket, and have the basic skills to be able to continue study on their own. 14 hours of instruction, willow, and a materials packet for continued learning are included.

 

3-Day Beginner Immersion - Sliding Scale $325 - $500

The 3 day immersion is for students who want to take their time weaving their first basket(s) or get a little more thorough in building these skills for the first time. Students will commute to Anni's workshop and should block off 3 full days for working each day 10 AM - 5 PM. Depending on student skill level, students will complete multiple bases, potentially multiple round-based stake and strand baskets, get to experiment with handle-making and strapping, and feel confident continuing study on their on. Students will also be introduced to the art of growing and coppicing willow and have the option of coppicing their own willow for their weaving projects, an essential skill to learn for continued practice. 18 hours of instruction, willow, optional coppicing, and materials for continued learning are included.

Local Apprenticeship

If you're looking for longer term and/or ongoing instruction that will support you in solidifying your beginner round-base skills, move you on to more complex techniques like oval base / pack baskets, and support in establishing a willow garden of your own so you can continue weaving throughout your life, you are welcome to apply for the local apprenticeship. All beginner-level apprenticeships must start with a 2-day immersion, so if you're curious about apprenticeship, you can start by booking a 2-day to begin the process of exploring your relationship to the willows. If you'd like to continue study after your beginner session, we can work out an arrangement that works for everyone and suits your learning goals and needs. Generally speaking, apprentice blocks will be full days at a time (9-5) and cost per day is around $140.

Packages for Visiting Students

 2-Day Beginner Immersion & Farm Stay - Sliding Scale $300 - $450

2 days is the minimum study time for beginner-level students. In 2-day immersions, students should be prepared to work each day for two full days in a row from from 9 AM - 5 PM. Depending on student skill level, the student can expect to complete at least one round-based stake and strand basket, and have the basic skills to be able to continue study on their own. Students also have the option of staying on-farm in a bell tent, in the willow studio, or in a personal camp tent on the land while visiting for their lessons. If you choose to stay elsewhere and commute to the farm, you can follow the local pricing for 2 days of learning. 14 hours of instruction, willow, optional housing, and a materials packet for continued learning are included. 

3-Day Immersion & Farm Stay - Sliding Scale $475-$600

The 3 day immersion is for students who want to take their time weaving their first ever basket(s) or get a little more thorough education while building these skills for the first time. Students should block off 3 full days for working each day 10 AM - 5 PM. Depending on student skill level, students will complete multiple bases, potentially multiple round-based stake and strand baskets, get to experiment with handle-making and strapping, and feel confident continuing study on their on. Students will also be introduced to the art of growing and coppicing willow and have the option of coppicing their own willow for their weaving projects, an essential skill to learn for continued practice. Students have the option of staying on-farm during their immersion in a bell tent, in the willow studio, or on the land in a personal tent. If staying elsewhere and commuting to the farm, students can use the local sliding scale amounts .18 hours of instruction, willow, optional coppicing, optional housing, and materials for continued learning are included.

Mini-Apprenticeship

If you're looking for longer term and/or ongoing instruction that will support you in solidifying your beginner round-base skills, move you on to more complex techniques like oval base / pack baskets, and support in establishing a willow garden of your own so you can continue weaving throughout your life, you are welcome to apply for a mini apprenticeship. Visiting apprentices are invited to come to the farm for 5 days of immersive learning - beginner into intermediate willow basketry - and are invited to help shape a learning curriculum that suits their individual learning goals and needs. In the mini apprenticeship, you will work one on one with Anni for 5 full days - or more if you choose and we can accommodate that - and will have the option to stay at Red Tail Farm in the beautiful Bloomingdale Valley on the West Fork of the Kickapoo River in a cozy abode for the duration of your stay. The mini-apprenticeship for visiting students is application based, as there are only so many slots for mini-apprenticeships throughout the year. 

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