Creative inheritance.

December 2020. My mother was born 100 years ago, December 1920.

She experienced the second world war in her 20s and this had a profound effect on her in many ways. She became very creative at ‘making do’ with whatever was available. She was resilient, strong, standing up for herself and more importantly for her family. A ‘no nonsense’ kinda woman, not easily pushed aside, not easily forgotten once you met her. Loyal, loving and generous to friends, neighbours and family. Artistic and creative………… I have inherited much from her, but it is the creativity I now wish to honour here. She made many of our clothes when we were kids, this skill came from her own mother, a seamstress by profession. Not always appreciated at the time I must confess, as a child I would rather blend in and wear the same as others, be the same as others. She was original in her fashion sense and my classmates would make fun of her unusual sandals. Probably from Paris and highly fashionable. How I wished her to be like everyone else then and how grateful I am now for the exceptional woman she was. Grateful for the inspiration and encouragement which somehow and unnoticed brought me to explore my own creativity.

For her sewing she started with a hand-turned Singer sewing machine, the top of which I remember using as a ‘boat’ while she was busy sewing. This was later replaced by a foot-operated one and much later again she got an electric machine, now old-fashioned and heavy and gathering dust in my house. She made an endless series of clothes for my dolls – I had many! – jeans, blouses, coats, knitted jumpers and even a pair of tiny gloves for each of them! She knitted jumpers for her children, grandchildren and many for herself. In later years she didn’t care much if the colours matched, she mostly wore them indoors anyway. She knitted herself a full length dress, covering her from head to toe and keeping her nice and toasty in winter, it helped her save on fuel. I regret now I didn’t keep it. Another creation I should have kept but didn’t was a woolen rug she made especially for me, grey with pink. I just hope it stayed in the family. I don’t remember her doing any crochet and funnily I am not a great fan myself, I do it rarely and often in combination with knitting. A great passion of hers was embroidery. She made many pieces, mostly in a simple cross-stitch, following a pattern from a ‘women’s magazine’, the result so beautiful and professional looking. She wouldn’t have called herself a Textile Artist, as she always worked from a pattern, but when I compare the work to the original pattern, there are many solutions she invented to suit the material or a given size. There is much of her personality in these works and the finish is very professional.

In her centenary year I thought of showcasing her work, whatever I have of it. Displaying it locally became a non-option when the Corona Virus hit the world. After a while, when my own on-line activities grew, I decided to show her work here, on my website. I will give her a page and gradually fill it from now on, starting with her embroidery work. It can be found under ‘Creations’, Mother’s Craft.

Though it seemed she was strong enough to make it past 90 or even live to celebrate her 100th birthday, she died unexpectedly in her 84th year. She loved willow baskets and collected many, of different shapes, for different uses. She even had a woven willow lampshade in the living room. I inherited most of her baskets. Unfortunately there was no sign yet of me becoming a basketmaker while she lived, I am sure she would have absolutely loved it and many of my creations would have been sent her way!

on-line, in-house and feeling connected

I seem to spend a lot of time on-line these days. Of course it’s one of the ‘side-effects’ of the present lockdown situation and i am enjoying the online festivals and broadcasts. But i really should get out more! Mind you I only mean the garden and the roads around here. Yes, the garden: I need to plant garlic and sow wintergreens before it’s too late, but the weather has been really bad lately. Just before the storms and rain, we managed to put together a flatpack metal shed, beside the polytunnel, meant for the gardening tools. It only took 3 days to figure out what the manual actually meant and to manage not to lose any of the fiddly screws and bolts, as there are no spares. Anyone who has ever tried putting together a flatpack (-anything) can imagine how bruised my brain felt after the 3 days and that I needed a day of rest to recover mentally!

More people than me seemed to waken out of hibernation lately. I had some lovely orders to work on:

A little basket for a child’s bike, based on the donkey creel, but adapted with other weaves to make it more child friendly. The straps can be linked into a handle when the basket is carried around.

The etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/ie/shop/MoWillowCrafts has also had a few sales and inquiries, I like that customers can communicate to get orders customized or just to give feedback. I have added more listings and will be adding more for the Christmas season. My Weavescapes were received well, the first two were scooped-up within days, which is a great boost to my confidence.

When the second lockdown hit, many crafters were again without an outlet, Some shops had to close their ‘non-essential’ section and Dunmore Country Market had to close, being a market without food. Crafters are not quitters though, neither it seems are organizers of Craft Fairs. I joined the virtual market of https://www.facebook.com/TuamChristmasCraftFair where crafts people can promote their handmade beauties on line from Nevember 9 – 27th. The outdoor market will be held on December 5th and 12th, restrictions permitting. I will just stay virtual, whatever the case. So this weekend I browsed through the Christmas stock and more recently made baskets and knitting. I took over a hundred pictures and send (some of) them off to the organizer. Hoping to sell some of my larger baskets locally, so they can be delivered or collected. After uploading pictures of smaller items to the Etsy-shop I did a Facebook search for Craft Fairs. I found several sites promoting local crafters and businesses in Ireland! Some of these have just started, but all of them seem to be growing fast. I joined New Craft Fairs Ireland, Shop in Ireland, Shop Eire and probably an American one by mistake! Shop in Ireland approved my post within the hour, the others are pending. Shares, likes and responses came in already, very encouraging. It shows the community of creatives are very supportive and I am proud to be a part of that community, virtual or otherwise! Let’s hope all this uploading, downloading and posting will pay off as well! At least the amount of time I spend on-line the last few days have been productive, but now it’s time to get outdoors, do some gardening and then do some more crafting by the fireside!

Out of hibernation.

It has been a long ‘winter’. Isolation wasn’t very difficult here, living in farm-country, with plenty of boreens to walk and few people to meet. We live rather isolated here anyway. With all timetables, obligations and responsibilities fallen away there was time to finally get lots of jobs done around the house that had been waiting far too long. Last week I finally delivered a basket that the customer was anticipating for several years! (shame on me) I just never got around to making this particular type, after learning it on a course in Spain, years ago. I am glad she remained interested and inquired again a few weeks ago, so I went to work to finally ‘get it done’. I also took time to sow more vegetables than I did last year. There was always another market to prepare baskets for…. and so forth. The fence got repaired (storm damage) and the front garden was thoroughly weeded; a massive amount of brambles went onto the bonfire. I ordered an enormous bag of flour and now make soda bread and scones on a regular basis, as well as treats like beetroot/chocolate brownies and after a friend gifted me some surplus courgettes I baked a sweet courgette cake. In the past I have had to throw out bags of flour because i never finished them before the expiry date. Life has changed!

Treasures from the garden and foraging:

When I ordered seeds, there was some delay and the tomato-seeds arrived too late for sowing. But every year I get offered seedling plants by people who have sown too many so i hoped this would happen again and it did!!! There are now about ten plants growing in the polytunnel and the first green tomatoes are showing. Late frost, wind and slugs have taken their toll on some of my seedlings. I suspect the carrots get guzzled by snails/slugs before they have more than 2 leaves! There is also a neighbour’s cat trying her best to sabotage my peas, cabbage and broccoly, but I remain hopeful I will have at least some of my own vegetables this year. Potatoes and onions are flourishing, the fig-plant is full of fruit and so are the apple trees. My berries are already in the freezer, I managed to outsmart the birds better than ever this year.

So far so good, I found hibernation quite enjoyable, if it wasn’t for the reason behind it and the constant stream of upsetting news from the world outside my bubble. I have gone from great optimism about how we now have time to reflect and reset priorities, leading to a more caring and inclusive community, to utter despair about people’s selfishness, the rush to get ‘back to normal’ and the holy cow ‘the economy. Great admiration for ‘the frontline’ workers who looked after our health, safety and essential services, and exasperated at the lack of leadership by key-figures on far-too-high salaries, avoiding unpopular decisions that would keep us safer. Meanwhile we got stuck with a government of ‘no change’, the opposite of what people voted for and it almost went unnoticed in this worrying time.

Many artists and creatives lifted the spirits by gifting us their talents on social media. I listened to their daily or weekly song sessions, watched artworks develop from start to completion and watched live videos of basketry techniques encouraging me to try them. In the beginning I experimented with a few new weaves, but somewhere in these months I lost my mojo to work with willow. Probably the amount of planning involved (soaking for several days, then using the pliable willow before it dries out again) just did not suit me at this time. I wove very little and ‘retreated’ into my comfortzone: knitting. Hats, gloves, cowls and baby booties galore. But a creative mind can not be stopped, no matter what, I guess. New ideas were spinning, mulling around. Finally I got the courage to try my ideas and now have some wall-hangings made that I am quite happy with. Weavescapes I call them. I combined yarns with willow, crochet with weaving. They will go on show in Dunmore next week, in the shop window of the Country Market. The Country Market has re-opened, re-arranged to comply with safety measures, trading every Friday from 12-2pm.

One door closes, another opens. When the Tuam Farmers Market decided not to re-open that was the end of my regular local outlet. However, some weeks ago I was invited to sell at a new shop in Tuam, so this week I delivered my first selection of baskets to Abbert – Lifestyle Store & Groceries, This new shop is part of Gather restaurant, which has just opened again. During it’s closure the owners finally had time to realize their dream of a shop. Some of the baskets in Abbert lifestyle store at the moment:

New ways.

When everything closed down I realized it was time to start selling on-line. It had been at the back of my mind for a long time but it was unfamiliar territory and seemed like a lot of work. Now that the Farmers market is gone, seasonal markets postponed and no direct contact with customers I decided to overcome my reluctance and my online shop is ready to go ahead! I selected products that I feel confident to send in the post, I put up the pictures, priced and made the whole thing look attractive. I named it MoWillowCrafts and it can be found on Etsy.com Ireland. I am launching it on Saturday 1st August, with a little home-party: pressing the button to open the shop at 7 pm. This is in the shop:

Hibernation is over, time to start a new chapter and the willow-weaving mojo is back!

Revamping

It’s a bit of a cliche, but it’s the time of year for renewal, new beginnings and all that, so I am revamping this website…a little. It will reflect some developments of the last year or so….

In July 2018 I became part of the Tuam Farmers Market, so I now have a regular outlet for my wares as well as a place to meet people and get feedback and ideas. Then I hurt my back and was unable to make baskets for a while, so I took to knitting and a bit of crochet. Regular customers may have noticed the appearance of more and more hats, gloves and Lavender Dollies on the stall.

Lavender dolly
hats, gloves, bags

Willow takes time to prepare, while colorful yarn is instantly available whenever I get the notion to create something. That makes it very tempting!

But you, my friends and customers keep me on the straight and narrow….or in basket-making terms: on the plank, where baskets are made.

Your interest and feedback at the market or by contacting me on-line has me producing willow-creations on a regular bases and improving my skills all the time. I would like to show more of my work here on the website, so you can pre-shop or contact me about a specific article or just browse and enjoy! Mind you, I am not creating an online shopping-portal and i am not sending items in the post, because I am afraid I could not keep up with the demand! There’s only one of me! Joking aside, I believe in supporting local crafters and markets, so I am looking forward to your inquiry or meeting you at the stall, to have a chat, exchange ideas and inspiration. I will also be organising more courses, dates for spring will soon be up on the Events/Courses page!

Keep an eye out for the new and revamped pages! Wishing you a very creative 2020.

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!

LET THE FISH FLY!

 

 

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…..me 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.

Conclusion:

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.

May, time of new beginnings.

Well Folks, in my previous post  17 for 2017 I announced a ‘life-changing event’ and indicated I would write more about this around the end of February. So much for good intentions. On the other hand, life-changing stuff may take a little longer to materialize!
18425317_1519628678059926_5100811551633772626_nBut finally I have all my ducks in a row, so to speak, and am happy to announce my new status of ‘Lady of Leisure’. It took quite a while: an ‘early retirement’ option from my job was offered last November and only a few applicants would get it. My fingers (and toes) have been crossed for 4 months until I found out mid-February that I was one of the Lucky Few. But still no clue as to when my new life would start, that news only came end of March. I knew then I would be a ‘free woman’ by Mayday! Good things happen in May, as you can read in previous posts.

I feel that I need to explain a little why I chose to take this option. In the last few years my job had become more and more a burden to me, at times making me unhappy and stressed. Looking back now I also remember that I used to love my job. When I started working with people with ‘intellectual disabilities’ it was really all about supporting them to live life to the full extend of their abilities. In theory that is still the case, but in recent years regulations and the amount of paperwork required to prove the standard of quality we deliver are getting in the way of actually providing that level of support. Frontline staff are stretched to the limit as they try to keep up with the ever increasing responsibilities of their role and demanding nature of their work. As carers it is easier to advocate for the people in our care, than to stand up for ourselves. And when ‘management’ does not seem to listen or  does not understand that they need a happy, content and supported work-force in order to give the best support and happy lives to the people using the ‘services’, it becomes even harder. At this stage of my life I feel I have made my contribution, tried to improve my work-situation and possibly contributed to some improvements. But overall I had lost the energy and optimism with which I started out so many years ago. Time for others to take over…. time for me to recharge my batteries in other fields.

So what now?   Basket making, sheep herding, turf footing, vegetable growing, giving in to creative impulses and generally enjoying life, I guess!!! And plenty time now to work on that list of intentions of 17 for 2017 ! Although….in these first two weeks of my free-from-job status, I think I have been busier than I was ever before ! I have 2 Willow Workshops coming up, I am footing turf  and I am helping to organize a tea party for charity. Oh and trying to keep up with all the sowing and planting that needs to be done NOW. Meanwhile ….. trying to stay relaxed….that’s what it was all about, right?

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17 for 2017

Inspired by Wild Daffodil and others I decided that a list of intentions for this year would help accomplish them or at least order my thoughts.I am very optimistic about the coming year on a personal level – not letting the global perspective bring me down – as there are many options on the horizon. Most of the seeds were sown in previous years and just need some further nurturing to grow and some new ideas are looking to materialize. I tried to be realistic and not aim too low either. Interesting to see at the end of the year how much has been accomplished.

17. Sow and grow 17 different vegetables.   This one should be easy. I didn’t count what was grown last year, but it seems feasible.

16.Make 16 pots of jam or chutney. Most of these will be given away as presents.

15. Give away 15 home grown plants. Most likely these will be edible and will go to our local GIY group.

14. Have a stall at 14 markets. The Cottage Market in Headford will account for the bulk of this: Paddy’s Day and every First Saturday of the month there-after. The rest will be local craft-markets and seasonal market days.

13. Complete 13 basket orders. Before the summer starts I hope to have finished all the orders I have taken on so far.

12. Write at least one blog every month. Here’s the first one!

11. Bake 11 times. Cakes, breads, brownies, I like baking and sharing them.This accidentally landed at number 11, so here goes.

10. Enjoy 10 nights-out: concerts, plays, even dinner out counts. I have already enjoyed an information evening about Headford Lace and a celebration of ‘La Fheile Bhride’coming up. Need to get out more, but this one may be the easiest to fullfil.

9. Make 9 craftworks with non-willow materials: weaving with paper, crochet, knitting, anything goes.

8. Introduce the dog to 8 new experiences. The present dog is a rescue and afraid of anything new. I am guessing she had no socialisation when young. The car is scary, cows are scary, people are until you get to know them, etc. Short car-trips and visits nearby have already helped a bit. I intend to take her on walks a little further from home and maybe play in the water somewhere. Small steps.

7. Teach 7 workshops in Dunmore. These will be in Seomra Eile, on Saturdays and the schedule can be found elsewhere on this site. Very organised in this case!

6. Complete 6 items in a new ‘fashion range’: a combination of knitting and basketry, handbags with matching purses. To be ready for the christmas markets.

5. Complete 5 planned back-yard improvement projects. Put up a railing, add raised beds, replace the willow fence, improve chickencoop fence and move chickencoop door. There are ofcourse many more improvement ideas for front and back garden, but if these get done this year, there is some hope that the others will get done eventually too.

4. Find 4 new outlets: 2 new venues for  teaching workshops, and 2 more sales-outlets for baskets. Maybe this is a modest number?

3. Learn 3 new skills. Starting with a woodturning course….tomorrow! and maybe willow sculpture??? And what will the third one be??? Exciting!

2. Take two basketry courses. These are already booked: going to the ‘master’ Joe Hogan in March and my friend Amanda Rayner in Wales will teach how to make a coffin in November. Both are 4-day courses and feel like a treat to myself. I am tempted to extend the Wales trip by a few days…. we will see.

1. Make one big life change. Have I got your attention? This could be anything! But I am keeping this one under my hat for now. I can reveal more by the end of February, so that could be my next post!

Picking a tree in bad weather

We are just recovering from storms Barney and Desmond and Christmas is around the corner. In the midst of bad weather the tree-hunter decided it was time to find a tree for the festivities. As he searched and looked up the rain was in his eyes. He thought the top-part of this one would make a suitable specimen and quickly cut it and brought it home. Only then did he realize the deception of looking upward in the rain: it had long branches at the bottom and at the top, but only mini-ones in the middle.

His first impulse was to go out again and find another, but I did not want to waste this one. Sure, didn’t I have plenty branches to fix it! Willow or dogwood would do the trick, and a bit of weaving!

Here is the Before:   
SDC16923… and the solution…

SDC16925

and the result!

SDC16927

A HAPPY CHRISTMAS FROM THE WILLOW WITCH, THE SIDEKICK AND SAILI THE DOG.