Materials I use
I am not a production-line basket maker, although I do work on batches and themes of style. I regard myself as an interpreter, an educator, and a creator of authentic and original basket work. I see the materials as an intrinsic part of the design. I sometimes work with hand-cut rare willows and pliable stems from the Leicestershire and Nottingham hedgerows – the heart of the original willow industry in England. On other occasions I work with machine-cut willows which are commercially grown in Somerset. I also work with bulrush which offers a soft alternative material special in the fact that it grows around the River Trent. With these materials I make items like hats, mats, and plaits, in an ancient and time-honoured way.
How I approach my work
My main focus has been in utilitarian baskets, and the study of local styles. For example, an Anglo-Saxon willow fish trap discovered in the River Trent inspired me to adapt the early techniques it displayed into my own creative works – using the weave to creat a life sized horse, and duck nesting baskets that can be used for lightshades, for example.
What I make
Over the years I have made just about everything, from donkey creels to linen baskets, wool baskets, fruit baskets, bushel sized baskets suitable for logs, Castle Donington fine skeined baskets, copies of old agricultural baskets used for fruit picking and harvesting, bee hives, bird cages, bike baskets etc.
Out of the old techniques I create figurative and conceptual pieces of art that have been on display at public venues, either within landscapes or inside buildings. These include National Trust woodlands, Catton Hall, Renishaw Hall, Holkam Hall, Leicester Cathedral, Lichfield Cathedral, Matlock Mining Museum, London Mansion House and Monument.
In early March 2020 I was delighted to take part in the 450th Anniversary of the Company of Basketmakers in London Guildhall.
I have given expert advice, for instance at the discovery of an basketry item at a Bronze Age burial on Whitehorse Hill, Somerset, and for an archaeological quarry find by University of Leicester, Archaeology Services. I am currently writing a history of basketmaking in the East Midlands.