From The Maker: Alison Fitzgerald

Alison Fitzgerald | Greenwood Baskets

Basketry is a fascinating and ancient craft which defies machinery. Every country in the world has its own tradition based on the materials to hand and the baskets relate to the domestic and agricultural needs of the particular community. Willow baskets are biodegradable, so no very old ones are preserved in museums. The skills of basketry go far back, probably to the stone age and must be passed on to the next generation in order to survive.

Alison Fitzgerald came to live in Ireland at the Horticultural Research Station in Loughgall, Co. Armagh in the winter of 1980 where research into growing willow for biomass was being pioneered. With a degree in botany she has a natural interest in the many varieties of willow, some of which are specially selected for basketry. The beauty of the willow beds there, with long, straight, brightly coloured stems inspired her to try weaving. The realisation that basket weaving is a fascinating ancient craft, in danger of being lost was also a source of inspiration. Frame baskets, such as the traditional potato basket, became a special interest through meeting basket makers on the shores of Lough Neagh where there had once been a thriving industry of basket making and willow growing. She has also developed her skills through participating in master classes in the UK and Ireland and by networking with other makers, but above all by personal practice. Her baskets are strong and well designed, combining practicality with elegance.

Alison grows many varieties of willows and uses the different bark colours to create blends of natural colours, making each basket distinctive. In 1985 she set up her own workshop, Greenwood Baskets. Since then her work has been sold and exhibited in Ireland, the UK, Europe and America. Alison is keen to pass on these ancient skills and has facilitated projects in schools as well as courses for adults.

“An understanding of the natural qualities of willow is a key feature of my work. My wall sculptures are inspired by the lightness, pliability and flowing beauty of willow. These abstract pieces allow the eye to flow aroundgentle curves tied by very fine twigs or the fine tips of longer willows. They are about lines and spaces, balance and movement; reflections of my love of music and the river at Benburb, where I like to walk.”

Demonstrations will be held in store as part of Só Collective’s ‘From the Maker’ series for February 2017 where Alison Fitzgerald will be demonstrating the ancient craft of basketweaving. “I enjoy the whole process of basketweaving including growing and harvesting the willow. It is very peaceful and relaxing to sit using just your hands, creating something useful and beautiful out of a bundle of twigs.”

Demonstration at Só Collective on Saturday 11 February 2pm-4pm

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