Flying Fish

Fish can fly, at least mine are!

Weaving a fish out of willow rods is a good introduction to willow-weaving as it is very simple and gives a speedy result. I regularly make them with children, during markets and at festivals. Years ago I saw it done during a Harvest Festival in Waterford, it wasn’t my idea! It is great to see the pride of children of all ages, as they complete their own fish with more or less help from me, depending on their age. At a treasure hunt in Dunmore and during the Moveable Feast in Headford children qued to make a fish with the Willow Witch, I kid you not!  And I enjoyed it of course!

One day I put a few fishes on a mobile and hung it on the market-stall as a decoration. Then it got sold! So during the Farmers Market in Tuam, where I have an ideal spot for doing a bit of weaving, I made another fish-mobile. About 5 minutes after completion and hanging it up, it got sold! Made a few more that week. Decided that one more fish, hanging in the center would be better. Used thicker sticks, replaced the strings with a crochet cord and added  another design. They started flying out the door….well, off the stall. The lady who bought the first one ‘for the grand-children’ came back to get another one for herself! At some markets nobody was interested, at others they sold out! Then someone decided he wanted only a single fish! I thought he was joking, but made a few just in case he would come back (he hasn’t). At the next market that was practically all I sold, single fish. I ended up having to dismantle a fish-mobile to sell them separately. Who would have thought such a simple item could be so popular!

When I started to plan and discuss the course content for a 4-week period someone suggested to start with a fish-mobile for the first class, as she had seen how popular they were at a market. And I realised it was a great idea: sometimes people need a little encouragement to start weaving, thinking it is very hard to do. Making a fish and then a mobile of fish includes some basic basketry techniques and yet is very simple. It will break the ice, so to speak.  I am looking forward to my upcoming courses!




Recap 2017 and beyond.

I like to revisit the list of intentions I made for 2017, see blog 17 for 2017. A little late, but hey, it’s only still 2018.

Here we go:

17. Sow and grow 17 different vegetables.   I am sure i did that: onions, beans, cabbages, purple sprouting broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, chard, a few sweetcorn, garlic, carrots, peas, kohlrabi purple and white, turnips, lettuces, courgettes, squash and beetroot…..are we there yet? Not all of these were successful. The potatoes and tomatoes got blight (probably) and though the produce was saved, we decided not to sow them this year. However, I bought a few tomato plants and last year’s tomatoes seeded themselves throughout the tunnel, so we have a small harvest at the moment. It was a rough year weather-wise, so not much was sowed. Instead I bought and was gifted seedlings. Courgettes did very well (hence the marrow-chutney below) in-between the broadbeans I sowed, peas got destroyed in the draught, french beans never flowered. The successes this year were the fig-plant: fruit for the first year! And a grape-vine that I almost gave up on has decided to give an abundance of tiny grapes after about 3 years, finally.

16.Make 16 pots of jam or chutney. Probably only about 4 pots made….. But I am making marrow-chutney right now, so hopefully enough to give a few away at Christmas.

15. Give away 15 home grown plants. Very few I am afraid.  This year I am propagating more plants from cuttings: house-plants, strawberries and contorted willow. I hope to sell these at the markets……

14. Have a stall at 14 markets. The Cottage Market in Headford is still going strong and I went to a few christmas markets. Some were better than others, but always a great atmosphere and a pleasure to be there. This year I went to a lot of summer-markets. But the big news is: we now have a weekly Farmers Market in Tuam, Every friday morning 8-2 with a few food stalls selling fresh veg, bread, eggs, chilli-sauces, a stall selling cut-flowers and… with baskets and other willow-creations. It’s going very well, a lot of regular customers and friendly visitors. It forces me to make new things regularly, to remake what gets sold and to invent new items!!!! Also to finish orders within a reasonable timeframe.

13. Complete 13 basket orders. Yes, I finished the ones that were still current and have received and finished more since.

12. Write at least one blog every month. Didn’t happen! not happening! They just come when I feel like it, take it or leave it!

11. Bake 11 times. I DID bake a few times, but 11 is very doubtful.

10. Enjoy 10 nights-out: I think yes, it might have been 10, or more…..memory fails…..

9. Make 9 craftworks with non-willow materials: well, lots of knitting and crochet going on, we even have a new local crochet group now. I also made a Sugan chair (i am including this year now, is that cheating?) That’s with green-wood and the seat made of rope. I have collected a lot of materials like the pips of avocado’s, they are waiting to be turned into something…….

8. Introduce the dog to 8 new experiences. The dog is still afraid of many things, but survives the use of hoover, hairdryer, lawnmower etc. She went visiting several times and realised that is actually FUN, still small steps, she will never be very brave.

7. Teach 7 workshops in Dunmore. Workshops did not go very well in 2017. People were interested, but to get everyone available on the same dates seemed to be a problem. However, in 2018 it has improved. I was asked to organise a course for a Tidy Towns group, 6 weekly sessions making specific items that could enhance the town. There was a subsidy and there was a group of 8 participants. Myself and the group had a great time. I realised it was much more rewarding to see people develop over time, than a once-off workshop. Recently more people asked for courses at the markets and I was asked to use an Art Studio for courses, so I am starting a 4 week course in 2 places: Headford and Ardrahan. (see the page for Courses, sub-page of Events) They are filling up gradually, hopefully they can both go ahead. And I am looking forward to organising more courses in the future. Teaching is something I really enjoy doing.

6. Complete 6 items in a new ‘fashion range’: Still a plan, a good plan, on the to-do list!

5. Complete 5 planned back-yard improvement projects. None of them got done yet. I blame the weather!

4. Find 4 new outlets: Yes: courses done and planned in different places, several new event-markets and the Farmer’s market.

3. Learn 3 new skills. Wood-turning was very inspiring. To come home with a decent item, made by self was unexpected. Love to do it again if only I had access to the machinery. This year I added Sugan chair-making. Had a brilliant weekend in the sun! Next I really want to learn spinning, using wool from the black sheep! In time, it will happen.

2. Take two basketry courses. I did not go to Wales to learn to make a coffin, it did not fit in somehow. But I did 2 courses with Joe Hogan last year and another this year. Always a pleasure, much learned and hope to do it again! I might get to Wales sometime, no doubt it will also be a pleasure!

1. Make one big life change. Yes, giving up the job was a good decision and a necessary one (see previous blog) I am of course busier than ever: baskets, market, voluntary stuff. But no stress, time to enjoy outings, living without restrictions from work-time and most of all: no more working-nights. Overall a healthier happier life.


Its good to make plans. I like having a list, not everyone needs them. Some things got done, many did not or not in the one year. Thats not something I would stress about. A list like this should be just a guideline, not a straightjacket. Let’s get on with living.