Sunday, 12 October 2014

Ateliers d'Art

Cover of September /October issue of Ateliers d'Art showing 'Start Point Tree' 2013 by Corentin Laval.
Photo by Bernard Dupuy
A couple of weeks ago and quite unannounced I received, in the post, a  glossy French craft magazine 'Ateliers d'Art' which, to my  surprise, had a really good picture of 'Satellites' in it taken during the exhibition at Nontron. The picture  featured as part of an article about the shift  towards artistic practice by some willow basket makers in France.

'Satellites' 2013
Photo by Bernard Dupuy

Articles about willow and basket making generally  make me nervous because they are often poorly researched, especially the ones for newspapers and  glossy 'housey' type magazines.  Usually these articles cast a romantic eco-glow over the whole subject with lots of seductive pictures of willows and weaving and seldom a glance at the bigger picture of unsustainable practice amongst commercial willow growers  and the massive international (and equally unsustainable) trade in willow products from China and elsewhere.

But, this article  is different, possibly  because it isn't trying to sell  anything. Well researched by its author, Dominique Brisson  it examines some of the key historical and socio-economic factors that have reduced the number of people engaged in willow basket making in France over the last century. It  goes on to suggest that France now has  a handful of mostly young makers who are starting to use willow and willow skills as a means of artistic expression, rather than for purely functional baskets, including  Erik Barray, Myriam Roux,  Corentin Laval and Karen Gossart. Interestingly Erik Barray  acknowledges that France is lagging behind in this respect and is quoted as saying "que depuis longtemps, les choses bougent beaucoup plus en Angleterre qu'en France" ( for a long time things have moved more in England than in France)  and the author continues "Les Anglo Saxons semblent en effet avoir une plus grande liberte avec la matiere" ( the Anglo Saxons seem, in effect, to have a greater liberty with the material).  Alastair Heseletine, Trevor Leat,  Tom Hare and Tim Johnson are all mentioned in the context of artistic work with willow but curiously not Laura Ellen Bacon or Lizzie Farey who are possibly the most groundbreaking of the British females who work almost exclusively with willow. My work gets a mention in the context of re-cycling, even though that is still an alien concept in the world of French basket making which is still dominated by willow.
Sweeney on his Throne by Trevor Leat 2013
It is an interesting article which  drew my attention to Trevor Leats work again. Generally I am not too keen on figurative willow work because it often seems to me to be ugly or lacking in real sculptural qualities, but Trevor does some amazing stuff. I particularly like this piece that  he did on Eigg recently and enjoyed his blog about his residency there. Michelle Cain works in a similar vein making giant figurative works for festivals and events and her willow badger  for Pembrokeshire (which you can see on the link) is very impressive!

If you want to read the article in Ateliers d'Art you can do so via the link by paying 3.50€ to the publishers of the magazine. (If they weren't a charitable association I would offer to copy it for you!)


  1. Ha...Was not expecting a mention here on your blog thank you so much Lois ...I love your blogging.

    1. I try to give credit where I feel it is deserved and your work is deserving! I'm glad you enjoy the blog, I enjoy doing it, it helps me sort out my thoughts about this strange world of basket making!