I always messed with tools and STUFF. My father made one rule “put it back where you got it”. I remember him testing out a refurbished outboard engine in the basement of our house in the garbage bin! So, you can see that I come from a long line of “doers” and indeed, crafts people.
My grandfather and great-grandfather were craftsmen. I was always making things, drawing, sewing, knitting, etc. I trained as a nurse and married soon after that. I sewed for money to help the home coffers and I refurbished furniture to furnish our humble home.
I had been farming on my own after my husband had died and in 1999, when my youngest daughter was 14 and old enough to milk the few cows and look after the farm, I took 4 days away and went to Joe Hogan, famous basketmaker and teacher, and there begins the tale of a new life changing experience.
Joe gave me 6 sticks and I wondered what I was to do with 6 sticks and then he showed us. We made a shopping basket and a small bread SCOIB (basket) and that was the beginning of my love for basketmaking. Up until then I had done many things but nothing had satisfied my need to sculpt something useful from a material that I had grown myself.
I learned to grow my own willow, harvest and dry it, store it and use it. I attended Joe’s courses for several years and then began going to him with particular problems I encountered with basketmaking on a one to one basis. It did not take much excuse for me to pack up and go to Loch-na-Foey where Joe and Dolores live. It is heaven.
I also joined the Irish Basketmaker’s Association and have availed of the many courses they have arranged with teachers from Ireland, France, England, Spain, Sweden, America and Scotland. There are more baskets than there are days in the year and the more I learnt the more I realized I didn’t know much.
I have been involved in several exhibitions, gone on trips to demonstrate basketmaking, sold at fairs from Ireland, to France, to America. The Crafts Council of Ireland has been very good in funding me to enable the ongoing development of my skills.
In 2008, a chance encounter with a Spanish basketmaker in Spain, introduced me to textile weaving and Anna Champaney who I went on to study it with in N.W. Spain. It was always a dream of mine to learn to weave as I spun wool from my own sheep and dyed it. Anna taught me to weave on a 3 week course and it was magical. I use my own homespun and some commercially spun yarn to make rugs and wall hangings.
My first love, however, is basketmaking!
I give basketmaking courses on request. I take up to two students at a time as I like to give one on one instruction as much as possible. Contact me for dates and rates.