Have you ever had a pile of woody weeds you didn’t know quite what to do with? Next spring you could be looking forward to flushes of growth of all kinds how ever many plants you have in the wrong place!
I was especially delighted to hear Claudia talking about weeds as a potential for weaving material at a recent Random Weaving workshop held at nearby Kindle Hill School. There we pulled out broom, roots and all, trimmed bamboo walked along the side of the road trimming plants of all kinds as we went. Are alot of weeds good for weaving? I ask. Oh sure, many many of them, Claudia grins. I found it just incredible to discover that having something useful and beautiful we can easily create from them means that all these woody weeds we have in the community gardens (and all our gardens up and down the mountain) are no longer the bushcarer’s chore to dispose of but become the weavers pleasure. We no longer weed, but harvest branches, leaves & grasses for the next weaving project.
With this in mind I invited Claudia to come along to our community garden and see what material we might have which would be nice (to cut down as well as) to work with. And a couple of weeks later, here we are cutting back nearby well known Cotoneaster and Privet, as well as weed of national significance Tortured Willow (Salix matsudana) and Poplar tree sticks from the creek bank. But we’re not doing this as a bushcare group, we’re looking for fibres to make baskets with. Today we look not at the scale of the problem of these trees, but the form and possible function of each branch piece, its flexibility and decorative attributes. And so pruning is no longer just a destructive action but a creative act.
Walking quickly around the site today, we identify the trees we’ll use and take only the material we need. We acknowledge that this can be a dangerous thing to do, as many trees will respond well to being given a severe haircut. In some cases even cutting down to the ground can extend the life of a tree or stand of trees to hundreds of years. This is known as coppicing and it is an old sustainable forestry practise, which is starting to gain ground again as communities’ interests start to look for local supplies of sticks for building and gardening. Well today we’re not building anything so large, and we lop pieces 1-2m long to work with. We’re here in part too to seed the idea that if we work together with bushcare groups we might all benefit, because of course many hands make light work. And so do suitably motivated ladies with loppers!
Soon our Tortured Willow and Poplar are are among so many strands delicately wiggled together into the beginnings of a basket. We start as weaving seems to do with an aim to produce a very simple form. Hands eyes and plant material come together to make two circles first. And then bring in the random weave to connect them to form the structure of a handle.
After filling in between the circles we just have time to begin another kind of weave, coiling and here we’re using handfulls of pine needles with quite a different result in mind.
If you’d like to find out more about workshops coming up at the community gardens sign up to get updates here in the top right menu, and if you’d like to come along to another day of weaving with our weeds, leave a comment here. Claudia is also running a classes in Wild Basketry on Friday afternoons in June at Wild Valley Art Park
We’ll be planning a bigger weave soon – watch this space 🙂