The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Hazel basket making

 

The making of frame baskets using split hazel, also known as whiskets.

 

Status Critically endangered
Historic area of significance Mid/East Wales, North Wales Brecnock, Radnorshire, Montgomeryshire, Ceredigion
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK Unknown
Current no. of professionals (main income) 1-5
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
1-5
Current no. of trainees 0. No formal trainees but short courses are available.
Current total no. serious amateur makers
6-10
Current total no. of leisure makers
Not known
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

These were agricultural frame baskets made using split hazel weavers. They vary in style and technique across the UK.

In North Wales, there was no special name for the hazel baskets. They were referred to according to their use e.g. basged dillad (clothes basket). There was also no particular style of basket. Individual makers used ribs, weavers and hoops creatively to produce the size, shape and style of basket they wanted.

Whiskets (Wales and borders): A whisket is a round or oval bottomed, frame basket. It was made using split hazel weavers, split hazel ribs running along its length and a hazel hoop, the hoop often constructed from two spliced half sections. The basket has two handles formed on the sides of the hoop which are often wrapped around with weavers. Whisket or wisket may have same etymology as whisk.

 

Techniques

  • Sourcing suitable hazel rods at right time of year for yielding good long weavers
  • Dressing and preparing rods, splitting consistent hazel weavers and ribs
  • Dressing weavers and ribs
  • Assembly of frame basket

 

Local forms

There are many variations of split hazel basket and they would have been made for the task in hand.

 

Sub-crafts

  • Cockle baskets of the Gower Peninsular

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Market issues: Low potential income for effort involved in processing raw materials.
  • Skills issues: Baskets of this kind might have been made on upland farms where required using limited availability of a raw material (hazel rods, not necessarily coppiced). This was a traditional rural Welsh craft, practiced often by farmers for own use, with limited opportunities for marketing. Little written evidence of skills or techniques so knowledge and skills faded as old generations of farmers died, and farms broken up with no young practitioners. Baskets were made to be used, so had finite life. Hazel is susceptible to woodworm so old examples are rare.

 

Support organisations

  • Basketmakers Association

 

Craftspeople currently known

Individual craftspeople:

 

Other information

 

 

References