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BASKET WEAVING, A SIMPLE PASSION - Christian Thoret - Midi Pyrenees

BASKET WEAVING, A SIMPLE PASSION - Christian Thoret - Midi Pyrenees

"I learned the wicker basketry at the National School of Basketry & Osiériculture of Fayl-Billot in Champagne-Ardennes - France. My basket-style come from the bottom of my rural soul, the one passed on to me by my father's father."

WEAVING HANDS (Profession vannier)

I mainly braid willows but I also like the most common wild species (hazel, brambles, chestnut). When I want to follow the path of my ancestors, the Gaul’s, I use basic wood such as dogwoods or wilder ones such as “clematis” or other different broom.

This is a very nice work as any ancestral trade but also quite exhausting because extremely repetitive. This is why artisans have developed small machines to help them save time in the several steps it takes to prepare the willows, such as peeling the wicker, a process that stains the hands and clothes.
Indeed there are lots of tannins in wicker skin and it is necessary to wear off the tannins first with lots of water before it can be weaved.

Willow wicker is a very interesting shrub. It has been used to make domestic objects since the dawn of time in all civilizations but it also has great medicinal properties such as quinine, which can be extracted from the bark as well as the resin in the buds that are used by bees to make their propolis.

Just before harvest time, we can perceive in the country side, the sweet scent of propolis as willow wicker have form a little bud that will evolves quietly during the coldest months and reveal its sweet perfumes on mild winter days. I have a pond near my workshop where I store the wicker loads once they have been harvested (January-February) and this until end of April or May, depending the years.

A 12 kg bale out of the pond will provide me of about 8-9 kg of wicker bench. A good third goes with the peeled skin and after it has been put to dry on trestles and wooden bars for a day or two in the sunshine so they quickly lose their sap. The strands are then tied in bundles of about 6 to 10kg and put up in the dark, in the attic at constant air temperature for months before they can be worked and braided. 3 to 4 months of drying are needed before working the beautiful white stems.

If we compare the different wicker - fresh, raw, peeled, split - all braided wood states will require a different preparation, especially those who have dried skin will need to be soaked for 8 to 10 days in a tank. They will colour the water and require several rinses, as the tannin will form a thin film, like Jelly, above water that will need to be wash thoroughly as soon as the wicker fate as it makes the wicker extremely fragrant. It is a very natural scent but a little musky and sometimes surprising.

In my studio, light offer my fingers, magical moments that evolve from spring to winter. Light of the early morning, bluish deep in the afternoon when the sun turns before my Windows, this soothing light helps me in my work, a magically vibrating according to the interior light that motivates me. Basketry is a partition work that repeats every day, a long solitary walk, engaged toward the beautiful work.

I never counted since I braid, I live to work, and everything comes from my hands. My ancestors thought me every thing and I honour them for guiding me on this path. I have had so fare three masters: my Grandfather, my father and my teacher at ENOV in Champagne-Ardennes. All have left this world but they are always by my side. They are my guides for life. My work is my sap, the one that keeps me standing.

I am doing very little, some small nearby markets listed on my website and I also do private commission work. Always enchanting for me to create for others but I refuse to do series. My studio is open by appointment only, throughout the year without exception, from March to November. I also propose introductory workshops to basket weaving.


CHRISTIAN THORET wicker weaver / Vallee de la Leze a Foures / 31190 Esperce / France / / Web : / +33 561507386 / +33633073063

National School of Basketry & Osiériculture of Fayl-Billot / ECOLE NATIONALE D’OSEICULTURE DE FAYL BILLOT / 24 Rue Georges Darboy / 52 500 Fay Billot  / Tél: / Fax: /

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