Basketmaking, chair seating and willow work

Willow basketmaking – preserving British techniques in square work with Mary Butcher

Ref: S3D09039


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About this course

Explore unique British willow basketmaking traditions in square work while gaining knowledge of basket history. This course will use a variety of weaves for base, sides and borders, and learn skills to construct a handle.

Course Description

Our unique British techniques are being mixed with those of many other European countries as teachers and basketmakers travel to exchange knowledge. This has provided us with rich bonuses of technique within my basket lifetime but our British traditional forms and structures are in danger of being lost. It is urgent that these are transmitted for their preservation, for adding to European heritage and for providing for future diversity. Baskets, a sustainable resource, may again be necessary during manufacturing processes and for future transport of goods.

Everyone will start with square bases, staking them up with two different methods. One is now widely taught, being quicker and easier but less strong. We will then move to our UK original method, very efficient and good for really robust work. These initial baskets may be made on a small scale to allow for further basket explorations of a traditional nature, after discussion with the tutor.

During the course you will gain a good knowledge of basket structure, using our traditional weaves for base, sides and border, an ability to make a strong handles, to twist willow for small handles, and other details as appropriate to the basket. You will also have some knowledge of basket history, willow growing, harvesting, preparation and use.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • Willow supplied for the course. (An additional charge may be made for especially large items, size or quantity.)

What students need to bring

  • Tape measure
  • Ruler - at least 1 ft long
  • Old bath towel/piece of old blanket at least 5 ft long (essential)
  • Notebook and pencil
  • 2-3 spring clothes pegs
  • Small hammer or rapping iron
  • Pair of sharp secateurs (preferably 'parrot-beak' shape)
  • A good pen knife
  • Side or wire cutters
  • A spray bottle for water
  • It is also useful to have an apron (not supplied) and essential to wear sturdy covered footwear in the workshop
  • Tools may also be borrowed from the tutor during the course.

Available to buy

  • Basketmaker's bodkin (at least 5") - can be borrowed from the tutor
  • Masking tape


Mary Butcher

Mary Butcher is a basketmaker, exhibition curator, writer and teacher. She held a prestigious crafts residency at the V&A's Sackler Centre in 2009. Recent exhibitions include 'This Beloved Earth', The Barony, West Kilbride, Scotland, 'Basketry Making Human Nature' at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich 2012, Re-Making the Past from the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and tour, 2014 (a study in Bronze Age Creativity) and 'Dimensions' in Denmark, 2016. She received an MBE for services to basketmaking in 2012 and one of two Crafts Skills Champions Awards in 2013.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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