Hazel basket making
The making of frame baskets using split hazel, also known as whiskets.
|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)
|Current no. of trainees||0. No formal trainees but short courses are available.|
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required|
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.
- 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
There are many variations of split hazel basket and they would have been made for the task in hand.
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.
Craftspeople currently known
- Ruth Pybus & David Brown
- Lorna Singleton
- Lewis Goldwater
- Dan Lawrence
- Liz Balfour
- Dave Jackson
- Clare Revera
- Michael Bennett
How to make a traditional split hazel basket with Lewis Goldwater by Zed Outdoors on YouTube
25 minute programme from Byd y Creftwyr, S4C 1986. First-hand evidence of hazel basketry in North Wales – film shows Evan Evans, Nant Melai Farm, Llansannan performing various rural crafts including making hazel strips and weaving a feed basket.
Hazel basket making in Romania on YouTube