In this, our fifth Maker Interview, we asked basket weaver Jenny Pearce 10 Questions about soaking, bending, and weaving a 'way of life'.
The Out Takes
HAS: pigs, chickens, sheep
WANTS: to go back to India
LOVES: rocks and trees and anything with texture
NEEDS: to be busy
WOULD: go crazy if she wasn't making
Q1. You live in rural Herefordshire, how did you settle in such a beautiful part of the English countryside?
I came to Herefordshire to join the Community of Windflower Housing Association at Canon Frome. This is a community of about 18 families (or single people) who share land and grow food organically amongst many other shared activities. We had kept goats and chickens in suburban London and craved more space and a more balanced life out of the rat race.
Q2. Your studio is in the garden (a short commute!) - what is a typical day like for you?
There is no such thing as a typical day in my life! No two days are the same which is probably a good thing as I have a very low boredom threshold. Some days I will be working in my workshop. Others I might be teaching or at a Show selling or demonstrating. I also design and make textiles so some days I work indoors, feltmaking or knitting. There is also the chance that my partner will have me outdoors helping with the pigs or sheep, foot trimming, or possibly even lambing depending on the season. I always wanted a ‘way of life’ rather than a separate work/home life so this suits me rather well. It is sometimes difficult though to get the balance right and take enough time off.
Q3. How did you become interested in the craft of basket making?
When I joined the Community at Canon Frome, somebody invited a basketmaker in to do a course and I was immediately hooked. I had always been interested in weaving and willow weaving excited me hugely.
Q4. As well as weaving you also grow your own willow, what are the challenges?
Cutting and sorting the willow is a huge job every year. I always advise people to start with a very small amount until you know how much you can deal with. It is very exciting, all the different colours, but until you learn about each variety and the soaking times etc. you can end up with the wrong willow for your purposes. I grow my willow organically so at times I get disease, eg aphid attack, or die back. Mostly I share my willow with the Aphids!
Q5. What is your design process?
This varies. I always jot down ideas in a notebook whenever they come to me. I do very rough drawings to remind me of what I was thinking, but mostly I will play with the willow to achieve different textures that excite me.
Q6. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A lot of my baskets are derived from traditional styles which I like to change to suit my needs. I am inspired by rugged nature, rocks and trees. Anything with texture.
Q7. Do you have any ‘wish list’ designs or projects that you’d love to work on?
I have in my head a plan for a ‘Chrysalis’ which will be a joint Willow/ Textile project.
Q8. If you weren’t weaving and basket making, what would you be doing?
Going crazy probably – I would have to be making something. I might take Art Classes or learn to play a musical instrument.
Q9. What is your most treasured possession? A letter from my father. I only received three in his lifetime and one is particularly special.
Q10. If you could have a ticket to anywhere…where would you go?
I think I would have to go back to India (several times). The sheer onslaught of colour/texture/sound/smell is such a wonderful sensory experience.