Learning the art of weaving (and a happy life!)

If you want an industrious but relaxing day out, then willow weaving is an ideal craft to enjoy. Basketry artist Helen Campbell is tucked away in a beautiful old vestry attached to a chapel and graveyard in rural Carmarthenshire. Wales is popular with tourists as well as being a haven for arts and crafts, so it's easy to find plenty to do if you are on holiday.

Helen Campbell, basketry artist, in her beautiful willow garden

Our day started with a stroll round Helen's lovely willow garden to touch and smell the range of potential materials for our weaving. Mugs of coffee in hand we sat in bright sunshine and learned some of the history of this ancient craft with its multitude of uses. 

Mum (Pat), Helen and Kate happily engrossed in weaving

Helen encourages active listening and we quickly had different reeds and types of willow to practice basic skills and just play around with the material. She encouraged us to explore the feel of the various sizes and 'bendiness' of these natural materials so we could begin to appreciate its qualities for ourselves.

The frown of concentration...

We were each able to choose our own projects for the day and in no time at all were busy planning and gathering our reeds. The patience and skill needed soon became apparent! As with all experts, Helen made it look much easier than it was, but she encouraged and motivated us to resolve problems through practice and observation. I was amazed at how totally absorbed we all became, weaving away in companionable peace.

A beaming Mum with her willow flower
At lunch time we could wander round the workshop and see examples of Helen's own work and pictures of many fantastic big weaving projects - she's a great believer in bringing people together to create something special. The setting is superb, and our small group blossomed in skill as we practised our craft. The most effective way to relax is to be completely absorbed and we most certainly were. Our fingers were aching by the end of the afternoon as we generously congratulated each other on our success, and we left Helen with our hands full of willow flowers or baskets and our minds full of ideas to make more.

Mary enjoying the act of creation
NB The events of this day took place in the summer of 2013.
With thanks to Helen Campbell and Mary Warren.
Words by Pat Dew, a first time willow weaving student at the ripe age of 61 years (at this point in time).

So many wondrous shapes, so little time!

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