Sievers and willow have a long history. We begin by going back to 1980, our second year, when Char TerBeest-Kudla offered the first class in basketry at Sievers. Focusing on willow, the class description read in part, “You will use natural materials found right here on our rustic, beautiful Washington Island. What you learn you put to use wherever you are.” Four students that first year quickly grew to 12 in 1981. One of those 12 students was Jo Campbell-Amsler, who became the Beginning Willow basketry instructor in 1991 and has continued to offer classes in willow since then.
In Jo Campbell-Amsler’s 1993 Beginning Willow class, two of her students were Donna Kallner and Jacki Bedworth.
1993 Beginning Willow Basketry with Jo Campbell-Amsler
(Jo in the back row, in front of the open door, Donna Kallner in the front row, far left and Jacki Bedworth seated below and to the right of Jo in the photo.)
This is where the “Sievers willow family tree” begins to grow and branch out. After additional classes with Jo, Donna offered her first class at Sievers, Gourd Vessels, in 1999 and has gone on to teach a variety of subjects including jewelry, looping, surface design, willow structures, natural dyeing and this year, Nålbinding. In 2002, Jacki Bedworth offered her first class at Sievers, with a stake-and-strand style Willow Utility Basket and went on to teach Basic Willow Basketmaking for more than 10 years.
Char continued to teach Advanced Willow Basketry and then offered classes in handsewn bags until 2000. To see what she is working on these days, visit her at Helen’s Daughters Studio.
In addition, we’ve shared the story of our willow patch located behind the Walter Studio, which now contains eight varieties, planted in May of 2000 by Jo, Donna, Jacki, Joanna Schanz and Penny Clark. Each year the harvested willow is sorted by size and used for cuttings or by the students in class for basketmaking. So you can see, the branches keep growing!
In the present day (actually, last week), Jo was here to teach her Willow Harvest and Weave class. At the same time, Donna was teaching Nålbinding. And, Jacki was a student in Jo’s class. What good fortune to have them all here again at the same time!
The students in Jo’s class began by harvesting the willow in the patch, then stripping the leaves off and sorting it by size and variety. The basketmaking begins by constructing a variety of frames and then weaving the willow into rib-style baskets. Students take home a 100% Island product.
Donna’s class, Nålbinding: Viking Mittens, was a new subject for us although we’d heard and been asked about the technique. Incorporating her own plant-dyed yarns, Donna taught students the single-needle stitching technique to create thick, wind-resistant mittens. They’re ready for more!
Over the past 41 years, the “Sievers willow family tree” has branched out to include these fine instructors, many, many students and new interests. To see how they’ve grown, find Jo’s baskets and happenings at Willow Ridge Baskets and some of Donna’s finished work on her Etsy site.
From those early willow basketry class descriptions…”What you learn you put to use wherever you are. Surprise yourself and your friends!” No surprise to us, students in these past two classes and in each and every other class are doing just that.Share Sievers with Friends...