As part of my Jewel-Withy project I am really excited to be teaming up with the Cornwall College media department to make a film documentary and photographic imagery to help record the critically endangered craft of making a Withy pot and the stories of its heritage.
The live brief begins in June and in preparation I am talking to all of the participants. Yesterday I was in Rosudgeon near Helston, Cornwall and met with 91 year old retired Withy pot maker George Chambers, his son Tom Chambers who is also a Withy pot maker and expert basket maker Geraldine Jones, who kindly arranged for us to meet in her beautiful garden. Oh and I nearly forgot to mention little Teddy the dog who is such a cutie pie!
Geraldine walked Tom and I through a natural willow arch decorated in vibrant purple flowers! I never thought to use willow as a form of trellis!
She showed me a another amazing example of using willow to grow other plants from! Look at this Clematis!!!
We then passed a collection of Stogs! I love this name! So much infact I'm going to write it again, Stogs! They are the stumps of willow trees that the willow branches (withies) are harvested from during the months of November to March.
Next we collected the withies which she very generously donated to us for the film and photography!
Something that struck me straight away was the variety of colours that could be seen! Geraldine and Tom both explained a little about this to me.
The colour of the willow can depend on a number of things, including the variety and whether it is freshly cut, boiled and stripped back (buff) or dry. This fact reminds me of a quality I enjoy in the metals I use to make jewellery which either keeps it's lustre like gold or oxidises or forms patinas when open to the elements like copper.
These golden yellow withies are a Cornish variety and go dark when dry. The popular Black Maul willow often used in Withy pot making and basketry that I have mentioned in previous posts doesn't grow all that well in Cornwall, but these seem to thrive! I might have to get hold of some myself for my garden!
Tom will be making the traditional Porthleven style Withy pot, which he learnt from his father George. This will be photographed and documented inside an exhibition book along side other traditional pots from different parts of the South West so that similarities and differences can be easily recognised between them. We also plan for Tom to be filmed demonstrating/discussing the Withy pot and his father George will be along side him sharing his knowledge and stories. I only managed to talk to him briefly, but I found his stories fascinating! I can't wait to get started!