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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Seasonal naturals- bittersweet, pussywillow, corkscrew willow, sumac,

For many years before I began making baskets and handmade rustic willow furniture, I gathered natural items that appear seasonally: bittersweet and sumac in the fall, pussywillow and corkscrew willow in the winter and spring. I have always been attracted to the plants that mark the passage of the seasons. I have also found that this attraction resonates with the public. I have had many conversations with patrons of shows where I have displayed these plants along with my handmade rustic willow furniture. They seen to inspire nostalgic feelings. I have had hundreds of people tell me that their grandmother or aunt would take them to the country to gather bittersweet in the fall or to cut a bunch of newly emerged pussywillows in the earliest days of spring from their yards.

I have always been happiest when immersed in the natural world, in a woods,at waters edge or in meadow. I believe many people have little of nature in their lives. I love to bring the natural world indoors, even in a small way, to allow people to bring some small element of nature to their homes.

I spend considerable time and effort in gathering these materials. I find landowners who are willing to allow me to gather quantities of these natural items. I gather corkscrew willow in the dead of winter, when the leaves are off. I use a 24 foot ladder to reach the branches high in the trees, cut them off and load them into my van, take them to my shop and bundle them into various size bunches. I use the large branched to trim my handmade rustic willow furniture. I do the Same with pussywillow. Sumac is also gathered after the leaves are off and bittersweet at the end of summer after labor day.

These natural bunches of plants have become nearly half of my business.

The feeling of the passage of the seasons becomes especially keen when I am high on a ladder in a pussywillow tree and hear high above me the sound of sandhill cranes returning from the south. I have had this experience every year as their return coincides with the first weeks of March which is when the pussywillows emerge from their dormant winter state. Both natural events punctuate the end of winter.
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