Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Teaching and Speeches

Pole Experimental Metiers d'Art workshops, Nontron

On Saturday I returned to Nontron to do a workshop for 15 enthusiastic students of all ages, all female of course and only a couple who had ever done any basket making before. I like that because it means the knowledge is being spread a bit further into the community thus finding a new audience. There were teachers, textile and paper artists, jewellers and a chef amongst them. The building that PEMA runs workshops in is old on the outside but contemporary inside and it has plenty of space including a garden. It’s the kind of building that the Crafts Council in London could only have dreamed of! I was kept very busy and I never got around to taking any photos.
Vannerie au dela d l’usage is the exhbition that the workshop accompanies. The other exhibitors were Xavier Chabaud, FrancoisDeplanches, Myriam Roux, Thomas Louineau, Vincent Castaneira, Julien Devaux ( not a basket maker but a designer who worked with a basketmaker)  Karen Gossart and Quentin Corentin.   It was Xavier who suggested I be invited to participate  and so my thanks to him because it’s a lovely space and the exhibition is being well received. 

At the opening the Mayor and various other local politicians made speeches standing in front of   ‘Satellites’ which is  fixed to the wall with dressmaking pins, (historic monument regulations) the baskets being delicately attached to each other with paper clips. So, it was quite stressful for me, as the speeches went on, to watch the gathered dignitaries slowly backing up towards the work looking for a wall to lean on.  All that was needed was for one of them to touch it and the whole thing could have come down on them, which might have been very entertaining….. but probably best avoided. In fact the speeches went on so long that people started leaving the room, looking for a drink! By the time they got around to asking the makers if they would like to say something we had lost the audience. In France the drinks come after the speeches rather than with them, but speeches seem a small price to pay for the public funding of such a lovely venue.

My work is very different to that of the other exhibitors as theirs is almost exclusively made with willow or willow bark. One of the visitors at the opening told  me that the organisers must have stretched the meaning of the word vannerie ( basketry) to include my work, because, she said,  vannerie to  a French person is exclusively  a basket woven out of willow.  To be honest I didn’t know what to say. It’s the first time I have ever heard that said before. After I got my voice back I explained why I felt my work could legitimately be described as vannerie. I then asked her what she would call the traditional paillassous or coiled straw and bramble baskets that were once ubiquitous in France and which bear no resemblance at all to woven willow baskets, she hesitated, then smiled and said ‘vannerie’! 


  1. sorry I did not get to Nontron Lois but I am in London at the end of November so may just catch the Worshipful company of Basketmakers.