Basketmaking, chair seating and willow work

The sustainable container – baskets from willow with Mary Butcher

Ref: SLW09265

Suitable for all

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2 places available

About this course

Make baskets for everyday life from sustainable willow. Complete two or three projects of your choice from shopping or laundry baskets, to storage boxes and letter racks.

Course Description

The aim of this course is to encourage the use of renewable resources by weaving with a sustainable material which has strength, beauty and a long life. Designs for today's lifestyles - rectangular baskets for supermarket shopping, arm baskets for the farmers market, box baskets for home storage, letter trays for the desk, and washing baskets can be chosen after discussion with the tutor.

You will gain or improve your willow skills, producing two pieces of average size. You also learn something of the history of this traditional material, details of growth, harvesting and preparation and be able to continue weaving at home.

Willow available will be both peeled, boiled buff and brown, with barks of beautiful colours (if available). Techniques include the use of a screw block for weaving square structures in a simple way, and a variety of weaves and handles, as appropriate.

You will work on individual projects, following a discussion with the tutor. There will be group demonstrations, observation of completed objects and samples, by discussion with the group and individually with the tutor.


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


  • Included in the course fee is the cost of the willow supplied on the course. However, an extra charge may be requested for large or multiple items, this should be paid to the College Craft Shop as requested at the end of the course.

What students need to bring

  • Tools may be borrowed from the tutor but please bring as many of the following as you have available (but do not buy anything especially before you come):
  • For willow basketmaking (*on sale at the College Craft Shop)
  • Tape measure
  • Notebook and pencil
  • 2-3 spring clothes pegs
  • Pair of sharp secateurs (preferably 'parrot-beak' shape)
  • Small hammer or rapping iron
  • Basketmaker's bodkin (at least 5")* - can be borrowed from the tutor
  • Ruler - at least 1 ft long
  • A good pen knife
  • Masking tape*
  • Side or wire cutters
  • A couple of large old towels
  • Please wear covered footwear in the workshop - this is an essential health and safety requirement.

Please note: if you are in doubt as to the requirements for the course, please contact the tutor for advice: Please include your name, course title, and course dates.

Student review

"Mary Butcher is a truly remarkable teacher who made the whole experience extremely enjoyable and rewarding while also imparting a great deal of information and knowledge to the students. West Dean is also a very pleasant place to stay and I thought the way meals, workshops and other facilities were managed greatly contributed to the pleasurable nature of my stay."

Ann, 2019


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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