In the late 70’s there was a TV series called Out of Town and as a small child I would sit with my father and watch it with fascination. It featured Jack Hargreaves an old boy visiting the craftsman of the countryside practising their arts and telling their tales. It was a window into an alien culture as in our local town there were no blacksmiths, coopers or wheelwrights down the road but still it seemed relevant.
Basketry is one of these old skills and one that has been with us from our early beginnings. The skill is essential to most of our important and diverse innovations: boats, fish traps, armour, tools, hats, bee hives, shelters and every kind of container imaginable. Each region using their locally grown materials to hand.
Some years later as an adult I had left the city pioneering a simpler and more sustainable livelihood. I was drawn into hedgerow and willow basketry, I learnt frame baskets first, as they are easy to construct and use only one weave: randing. You gain a feel for the materials, and then start remembering the repetitive patterns and techniques which help shape your work. At the end of the day you can bathe in the satisfaction of making a practical container which is made from 100% natural materials and with care and repair can last 50 years. As time went by I continued to add to my skills, learning many more techniques which have included donkey panniers, lobster pots, plant supports, coracles and hurdles.
Rediscovering the ‘out of town’ craft skills for real I realised the TV series was not a sentimental walk through a bygone era but a path to re-discover skills and knowledge from the past that did not harm the earth and had answers to some of our most pressing environmental crisis. How do we change the way we live? If we seriously look into how we reduce our CO2 emissions by 80% we see that re-ruralisation, localised organic agriculture and re-localised economies will be the dominant 21st century trend. For us to drive this trend from the grass roots we need to pioneer ways out of the city: re-skill and re-learn what we are doing and why we are doing it. We have to be the change we want to see.
I am part of the Rural Skills Trust, a not for profit group set up to advance education and training in sustainable rural skills which conserves and protects the environment and in particular focuses on the threats of and practical solutions to climate change. At present we are focusing on sustainable skills in farming and forestry such as hedgelaying, hedgerow renovation, basketry and coppice practice. Skills which inspire people to change their lives and livelihoods. We encourage education, self enquiry and dialectic as a means of collective action. We are informed by the wisdom of the Buddhas as a path to taking appropriate action on climate change. The Trust is part of the 4nobletruths of climate change project (4nobletruths.org). We are always interested in talking to people who would like to get actively involved in this project.
RST are teaching the ‘out of town’ basketry skills camps as I believe there is a new wave of land-based workers, permaculturists, small holders who would find these skills useful in their daily working lives. Such basketry skills were commonly used in our recent past, passed on through family members, young farmers clubs and community ties. We can re-learn these skills today.
We will be running 4 day basketry skills camps this June and July in rural Carmarthenshire. The course is an intensive designed to pass on the basic skills and knowledge for the landbased worker to make the baskets they need for their practical work and domestic life.
On this course you will decide how you use your time and what projects you wish to learn. You can book all four days or a few days.
Choice of projects: Celtic Frame basket, Basket with side handles, Handled carrying basket, Celtic Creel, other projects: apple picker, herb and flower drying basket and plant supports.
Added value: Handouts and book recommendations, short films on basketry shown on projector in evenings.
Venue: Tibetan Shelter next to woodland Newcastle Emlyn West Wales
Camping on site: £5 per person per night.
Fri-Sun June 5th -8th
Mon-Thurs June 15th-18th
Fri-Sun July 3rd-6th
Cost 4 days £160 (per day £40)
To book a place or more Information
firstname.lastname@example.org mob 07964530436