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'Willow Works' at The Hill House and An Tobar. 2007 - 08
reviewed by Di Hannah
Some time ago, Lise made a conscious decision to cut back on teaching basket making and concentrate more on her own work. She felt her work had become stale, and she needed to move forward, expand her skills and develop new ideas.
In 2005, Lise was approached by Charlotte Rostek, the curator of the Hill House in Helensburgh, to mount an exhibition of new work inspired by this magnificent house, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Lise says: 'Long before I was asked to mount this exhibition, I wondered why willow became the main theme for Miss Cranston's tearoom in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. Was it solely because the old Scots word 'saugh' means willow, or did CRM pick up on Miss Cranston's use of Willow Pattern tea service?'
I knew that Lise had been busy weaving throughout the summer, so when an invitation arrived to the private viewing on the eve of the exhibition opening, this was an opportunity not to be missed to see the results of her 'labours'.
The Hill House proved to be a magnificent setting for craft work, being home to many fine examples of crafts and textiles from the Arts and Crafts era. The exhibition is mounted on the first floor, allowing visitors to experience some of these along the way. On approaching the first gallery the wonderful, familiar scent of willow beckons you to enter. Immediately, your eyes are drawn to the opposite wall where a larger than life winged heart seems to hover, guarding over everything and everyone present. [This piece was commissioned by the curator]. Over by the window are 'The Lovers' - they stand, coyly, side by side just out of sight of prying eyes from the garden below. In the centre of the room, an elegant group of baskets catch the evening sunlight. Organic in shape, each one is unique in form and colour - a tribute to the rich diversity of the willow varieties that Lise has chosen to grow in her garden. It is impossible to resist the urge to lift and caress them.
I have previously seen examples of Lise's Celtic Coil range, and this exhibition features three superb pieces. The first, a large flared bowl, shows the weave to perfection and was much admired - indeed it sold on that first night. A smaller 'cauldron' set at an angle draws you across the room to admire its unusual, beautifully constructed base. The third piece stands proudly on a pedestal - the result of a fusion between the celtic coil weave and the organic forms that have become Lise's new trademark. Garlands and platters adorn the walls and mantelpiece, and 'Landscape Pods' jostle for position on the hearth - there is so much to behold!
Moving on to the next gallery, the viewer is greeted by 'The Blackies' woven from Salix faucile 'nigricans' in celebration of the Blackie family who commissioned CRM to design this house for them. In the centre of this room are four tall shapely baskets woven entirely with white stripped willow - they form an imposing group. (Significance???)
Before leaving, I felt compelled to return to the first gallery. On standing back and looking again, I realised that there is another, more pertinent significance to the winged heart. It symbolises the happiness and joy - and freedom - which Lise has found in weaving these new forms. She is truly working from the heart once again - and it certainly shows!
During a recent research trip to the USA, I was lucky to be able to include attendance at the National Basketry Organisation (NBO) held at Lake Tahoe in Northern California.
This is a young organization some six years old that 'aims to promote the art, skill, heritage, and education of traditional and contemporary basketmaking'. With the US having many local guilds, a vast array of plantfibres and a vigorous contemporary basket movement the NBO seems to aim at being a national mouthpiece, forum and lobbyist for everything 'baskety' in the States.
I had joined in 2003 just missing their last bi-ennial meeting in New Mexico, a place I have always wished to go. In the last 2 years the NBO has gone through some rapid developments and learnt many lessons. Offering 19 courses at this the next convention seemed a confident move. With a membership of only 800, though it was a tad over confident and the high price of the Tahoe (a 'Ski Resort') hotel deterred many and some 9 classes were therefore cancelled. Having said that those that came had a fabulous time.
I had luckily obtained a lift from Sacramento from prominent members of Californian Indian Basketmakers Association (CIBA) : Jacquelyn Ross and Kathy Wallace who intended to gatecrash the opening evenings keynote address given by their friend Sue Coleman from the Washoe tribe in the Reno area. On arrival, they were, however. treated as dignitaries and invited to dinner and stay the night! So, the good craic continued until the thin mountain air and good food forced us to an early bed. I did need to be up early for a breakfast at 7.0am followed by a seminar at 8am and my first session with Kari Lonning at 9am!
So it continued: 3 meals, 3 one-hour talks/presentations and 3 lessons daily for 3 days! In fact the cream of US basketmakers were there: teaching, giving advice and presentations and generally being available to hang loose with.
The final day allowed time to visit the local gallery of to see the 'All things considered' an exhibition curated by the NBO (which despite its name was not open to 'foreigners'). In addition a nearby local museum featured the work of Dat-so-la-lee's work as well as the Marion Steinbeck Collection of S 800 baskets (!) from 85 tribes from W & N. America - see the North Tahoe museum website for more about this collection.
The celebration dinner/disco and auction ended events at the convention and was my last event of my 3 weeks stay see my website for further adventures> and during the auction it was great to see Nancy Moore Bess stalking those present to sell the 'Kishiemaking' *DVD to generate bursary funds.