slow made

At garden objects we love items that are crafted by hand by true artisans.  A favourite of ours, and a new addition to the store, are the small and large French willow baskets. Inspired by Irish potato straining baskets, the round shape and geometric willow braiding are very pleasing to the eye, and even more so to the touch.

The nature of the willow basket epitomises slow made, nothing is rushed here, least alone the growing of the willow, which our weaver grows on his plantation in the Dordogne region of France.

Willow begins shooting in spring. It is planted in tight rows forcing it to grow  tall and thin, in search of the light. By autumn its growing cycle halts and it sheds its leaves. From late November to January the willow is dormant and ready for harvest.

Harvest is done by hand using a sharp pruning knife. The long thin willow rods are cut at the base of the plant, leaving the stump intact so it will regenerate next year, this process is called coppicing.

The plantation yields around 2 tons of willow, which once cut is sorted into lengths, bundled and stored for drying. When time to weave, a bundle of willow is selected and placed in a water tank for up to a month, this process is necessary to ensure the willow is pliable without splitting.

Once the soaking is complete the weaver makes a hoop, this will become the rim of the basket.  It is from this stage that the hoop is fitted with central ribs of split willow. Whole willow rods are then geometrically braided around the frame and more ribs added until the basket is complete. Once finished the basket is braced for several days and left to dry.

For centuries, people have been weaving with willow, producing beautiful functional pieces for everyday life.

To shop french willow baskets click here.

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