How did it all begin? My first basketmaking experience was in the mid 1980’s, a large egg basket woven on grapevine rings and ribs. The place was the patio at the London home of my new mother-in-law, the teacher was Betty Britschgi and I loved every minute. This was the London guild of weavers and spinners basketry study group and we were meeting each month to make a basket. I think there were 7 baskets under my belt before the group folded for lack of leadership (one of the baskets still isn’t finished!!!). We had been rotating teaching among the members and I remember meeting in someone’s kitchen one night (she is now a SOBG member) where Betty taught Amy’s Basket from Lyn Siler's book.
There wasn’t much basketmaking through the ‘90s but Betty Britschgi gave me some cuttings from cultured basketry willow which came from Edna Baker, a former London guild member, and today it is my main crop, Green Edna. In 2000 Ankaret Dean sold me cuttings and that summer Jule Koch gave me cuttings from her two favourite varieties. I was on my way to becoming a willow grower and weaver! Finally in 2004 the time was right for me to take my first willow basketry class. After one week with Sarah Kern at Haliburton, I found myself absolutely hooked on weaving with willow. That October I had a weekend in Nova Scotia with Swiss Master Basketmaker, Verner Turtschi and the following summer, back to Nova Scotia for a week with Heather Sanft, repeated in summer 2007 to rendezvous with Jane, a new friend from a guild conference in Windsor where we wove willow together. The travel continues, attended the BA's York Spring School this year and am scheduled to take a class with Jo Campbell-Amsler at the Sievers School of Fiber Arts in August. Jane and I look forward to visiting basketmakers in Denmark one of these years.
What joy I felt when the opportunity to attend “Basketry Spree in 2003” came up and even more excited when SOBG was formed at the conference! The guild retreats that followed were unforgettable, the friendships formed will last forever. Two more SOBG conferences, “Baskets & More in 2004” and “Catch the Spirit” in 2006 gave me the opportunity to learn from new teachers and make contacts with basketmakers who soon became friends too. Growing willow and sharing it with others has put me in touch with even more basketmakers. The annual native black ash workshops in southwestern Ontario have formed a fresh circle of craftspeople. My willow blog has been a great way to meet people interested in willow. Basketmaking has truly opened a new world for me – of travel, learning, creativity and especially of friendship.