Thank goodness we have had some winter sunshine amongst the gales and storms.

This time of year It is good to be outside (even in the rain) to think about the materials and colour that can inspire our creativity

In addition to the material we were able to bring back from #Hambrook marshes in Canterbury. I’m using material that I’ve grown in the garden and on the allotment

The important thing to remember with willow is that it is essential to cut the year’s growth before the end of the following February.

Our next trip to Hambrook marsh has already been organised for that very reason.

If the trees are left, they grow so fast there is a chance of ending up with a full size tree and no suitable material for weaving. I’m learning all this through being a volunteer and trial & error.

These are the results from this weekend. The bird feeders have provided the colour palette I need to cope with the winter blues and greys! I know that their colour will fade over time , and possibly the weave will dry and shrink. However, so far, they have kept their shape sufficiently and are being given away as gifts. They are proving to be very popular. We had an order for 15, from a very chic shop in Rye, and as a result our community group in Lydd are inspired to develop their basketry skills and the potential for selling their products. A big ambition for this group is to build a cottage industry using local free / low cost resources with the potential for bringing new economies to the town.

I think small willow projects help to build confidence in working with this very special material. I am enjoying trying out using freshly cut willow. This material was cut over 4 weeks ago and left outside in the rain, wind and sleet. It seems to tolerate these conditions and the willow does need to ‘mellow’ before being used ie don’t weave with it straight from the plant.

The Catalan platter is a joy to make from material that’s not quite suitable for making a basket ie too thick, thinner rods are easier. There is a great skill behind cultivating willow so purchasing material from willow farms is always going to be a necessity.

The platter is made using willow from my garden, I’ve so enjoyed having the skills to select out the length and diameter of willow suitable for this project. I find myself thinking about my community group as I make and wondering how we might be able to source enough fresh willow for each of them to make one of these. I think in February I can bring supplies from Canterbury and it will be the perfect time of year to be experimenting with this range of colour.

On a completely different tangent, our new audio trail project is going well. The SaLT project which stands for Stories and Lives Trail, will help to preserve stories and lives from the amazing and rich cultural history of Romney Marsh. We are working with a local designer to produce a SaLT trail postcard to illustrate the ideas behind the audio trail. New research has brought some amazing archive photographs to our attention.

These are the women, who during the 1950’s would launch the lifeboat from Dungeness beach.

I spoke to one of the few women who helped launch the boat and who is still living on Dungeness and volunteering for the RNLI. She remembers the need for using local women’s skills and strength to respond to an emergency at sea. We hope to talk to her more and record her stories & memories in order to include them in our audio guide next year. If you live locally and want to get involved please email or phone us at officeairm@gmail.com or on 01797 367455

We are able to develop our project through the generous support from Heritage Lottery Fund @HLFSouthEast who are supporting us to make this exciting new archive and resource

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Willow colours and winter challenges

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