Thursday 17 October 2019

Dordogne, Berkshire, Catalonia (Part 3 Catalonia)

From Reading to Catalonia to arrive in the last hour of the annual basket fair in Salt on the outskirts of Girona, so I made a quick dash around to try and see as much as possible before it closed. The Fair is organised by the Catalan Basketmakers Association who had invited me to run a post fair course for some of their members. On the Monday a group of us headed out of Girona to Toroella de Montgri to visit Josep and Magdas  workshop/shop. Set in a narrow street it had a cave like feel, filled with basketry, materials and chairs for restoration and where in a dark corner a female ‘gigante’ watches over everything.

On to the house that the association had rented for the course set on a ‘slow’ farm in the countryside, then off to the beach at the mouth of the river Ter to gather both beach flotsam and maritime rush Juncus acutus. Never having had a chance to handle this version of rush before I now understand why it is used to make fish traps and baskets like the saranda - it is very tough. Josep taught us how to pull it from the plant in two movements but some plants surrendered their rushes much more easily than others!

There were 13 students, Italian, French, Venezuelan and Spanish, most of whom are professional makers who had just had a hard weekend of selling at the fair so I offered them an opportunity to ‘play’ and to experiment rather than to impose specific techniques on them. But I did ask them only to use materials that were free. In fact some purchased materials were brought to the workshop and used towards the end and the machine split chestnut bands were perfect for certain techniques. It would be great if someone in UK could make those, or ash or hazel ones for us. Anyone know a wood/coppice/forestry business that might take it on, or at least give it a go? I am sure there would be a market for them.

Instead of completed items I brought lots of my technical samples for them to examine, they could choose any techniques they would like to learn and I asked them to make something that could be carried on the body without using the hands to hold whatever they made. We only had two days to work in and at the end of the second day the makers performed a catwalk wearing their creations. Antonios  plaited palmito nose cone for stabbing flies whilst working was just one of many gems!

As always it was a real pleasure to be in the company of fellow makers and my thanks to Josep and the Catalan Basketmakers for inviting me to share some time with them, to Idoia and Severine for translations from French to Spanish, to Mari for taking photos and setting up a Whats app group, to Carles, Francoise, Julio and many others for cooking skills, Magda for the lift to the station and to all of them for ‘playing’ and experimenting.

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