Sunday, May 11, 2014

Gathering and Processing Willow

Willow sticks are used much like hazel sticks, as the backbone (or warp) of our baskets.  The sticks can be very straight and a have nice white color.

Unlike some basket materials that require travelling high into the mountains, we collect our willow along waterways like the Klamath River - and more recently a small patch we are "maintaining" closer to home.  Like hazel, we want the long, straight, thin sticks as these are the best to use as the warp of our baskets.  Sometimes, in larger open weave baskets (baby baskets and burden baskets), the thinner pieces can also be use as weavers.

Some of our basket materials are best to gather after fire has gone through the area.  That isn't so with willow.  But still, the most usable sticks come from new, fresh growth.  To that end, many basket weavers will maintain a personal willow area by cutting back the plants every year.

When a weaver first decides on an area to maintain, often it has years-old willow plants that have grown quite full and wild. Some weavers will cut them to the ground, but we like cutting them to about waist height.  New growth of long, straight sticks will grow from the cut off places, making future gathering easier than bending to cut them from the ground.

This video talks about both gathering and processing the willow.
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1 comment:

  1. I have a question. I was taught traditional Yavapai basketweaving this past winter. Our timeframe gathering willow, im told, is in June/July in AZ. I live a short walk away from our river, and there is a damp river bed that willow grows in. As you noted, there are a lot of willow plants that are overgrown for years. Would you suggest I cut this down, waist length to help with new young growth? Im seeking out assistance locally as well, however the lady that taught us this past winter does not live near our reservation, Fort McDowell. The willow I've gathered seems too thick.