Thursday, April 30, 2015

Willow Lobster/Crab Traps as made in the UK called Withy Pots

 "Withy" trap made for catching crabs in the UK. 
Withy Pots are the East Devon Style from Budleigh Salterton in Devon, UK. Dave French's family has made them for generations.
Dave French making a Crab/Lobster Pot out of Willow. This type of pot is called a "Withy" Pot.  He learned this craft from his grandfather. It is a dying art and virtually unknown in the USA. I have to say I am completely intrigued. My husband lobsters in Gloucester, MA with a non commercial license so I am familiar with lobstering. As a basket maker it seems like a possible fun project to try making one of two of these pots!

Dave uses bricks to weigh down the pot, tying them to the sides of the pot to stop it moving about. Apparently they use these in small trawls with bouys on either end just like we do in Gloucester, MA.
The start of the pot is done on this wooden pillar which holds and stabilizes the beginning weave.

One of Dave's students making a full size Withy Pot.

Weaving the bottom of the Pot

Trimming off the entrance 

Skeevers or sticks are used to hold the bait in the trap. I imagine they use a whole fish like they did in the old days in the wooden traps we used. My Dad always put a whole fish on a nail. These days we use bait bags. 

I met Dave French on a basket weavers group on Facebook. He sent me these photos. I am completely intrigued! 

You can do a search on Facebook for Dave French. He doesn't appear to have a website but he was very nice to share these photos with me. 
Now.... Where do I find a nice willow tree?

Happy Basket Making,
Melissa Abbott

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Nantucket Basket Making Lesson with Martha Lawrence

I found out that Nantucket Basket Maker, Author, and Authority Martha Lawrence is living an hour and half south of me in Florida where I reside in the winter months. She is the author of "Lightship Baskets of Nantucket" one of my all time favorite books on these very special baskets.
I contacted her and she agreed to give me a lesson and we started off with a basic 6 inch Basket. 

Martha is delightful, knowledgable and very charming. I was thrilled to get to work with her and learn some techniques, tips, and tricks.

Putting the rim on the basket was a cinch with Martha's expertise and techniques!

I wove as tightly as I could!

After my 2nd day of weaving!

The very beginnings... Getting those staves lined up and straight!
A collection of Monnie's Baskets. She is an advanced student if Martha's and definitely inspiring! What work!!

Some other molds and projects at Martha's in process!!

These are Martha Lawrence's  set of nesting baskets from her private collection displayed at her studio. 

My finished basket! What a special basket. I loved making it and I promise to keep it always! Thank you Martha!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Nantucket Basket Purse with Oak Staves and Base

I finally finished the basket in February 2015 in Merritt Island, FL.

This is 8" Nantucket Basket Purse made with Oak Staves, Bases, and Handle. It is as solid as a rock! I had never attempted a basket purse with hardwood only with cane. I spent months fiddling around with this, and the basket isn't perfect, in so many ways, but it is strong and resilient. I have been joking with people that it will be around much longer than you and I. I am not sure I would do another Oak Purse or not, because there is so little "give", but if I do, I have come up against all the pitfalls of working with this medium in this piece so I am sure my next one would be better. Most challenging basket I have ever made and this includes all my Pine Needle Baskets. I haven't yet decided where I will put a bone scallop shell on the top or do a small scrimshaw. Honestly, the bag has so many errors that I may keep it as an example of " what not to do" for the future and remember how far I have come in my Nantucket Basket Journey!
This winter I am making a 8" Nantucket Basket Purse with Oak Base and Staves. I plan on some really great Scrimshaw for the project too!
This is the very start of the Basket:

getting going!

Almost to the end of weaving the basket base:

More to come as the process develops!!..... Meanwhile I am posting a few pics of some of my Nantucket Basket Molds:

The molds are used to make the shape of the basket. Piece of wood or rattan called Staves are the ribs of the basket. I have placed them into a base ( made of oak) which is slotted. 

The Nantucket Baskets were originally woven on molds made out of old masts and booms off wrecked ships. Oak is the material these particular staves are made from but people use all kinds of woods for bases and staves. 

Many people use Rattan for staves too. I am weaving with Rattan or Cane. 

Traditionally on Nantucket (where I learned this style of basket making from a teacher named Peter Finch) baskets may have been made from other materials other than rattan. Since it is thought that some basket making skills may have been inherited from the Local Wampanoag Indians, they may have even used Pine Needles. There is a bit of a historical connection with the shakers and some early families on the Island and you can see that influence. I have many Molds. I also do a little scrimshaw and use ivory and bone findings (antique of course).

The whalers brought the rattan and cane home to Nantucket in the 1800's from Asia and that's when they started weaving with it. Later many men who were stationed on Light Ships which were ships anchored in shoal water off the island like floating lighthouses they made baskets to sell on the island in the late 1800's. Later the Nantucket purse was popularized in the 1940's by a talented basket maker on the island named Jose Reyes.
There is a wonderful video of Jose Reyes on YouTube:

A Photo f me weaving this basket - Feb 2015
Some of the stages

Gluing the lid

This was a real leap of crazy faith to do this basket without much instruction or a mentor to help me with hardwood baskets. I have some supplies to make a cherry basket purse next with cherry staves and I am hoping I do a better job with that!

Happy Weaving!!
Melissa Smith Abbott