Willow Bark Harvest

Last week while my head was still spinning from the Midwest Weavers Conference, Bill reminded me that I needed to harvest willow bark. Willow is easy to peel when the time is right, and my window of opportunity was closing.

In June 2012, I’m teaching at a brand new willow conference in Decorah, Iowa organized by my friends Jo Campbell-Amsler and Lee Zieke Lee. I have material aplenty on hand for Quixote Coiling, but needed a good supply of willow bark for this class:

Willow Spirit Constructed Vessels
For thousands of years, basketmakers have made vessels by folding, cutting and stitching sheets of bark. In this 2-day class, we replace that bark with a fabric laminate made of contemporary art cloth colored and patterned with willow. You’ll learn a variety of ways to use willow to dye and print fabric. You’ll sample new ways to conceive, model and build hand-stitched sculptural forms, and create two vessels that incorporate willow in the surface design.

So on Wednesday, Bill helped me peel for a little over an hour. The bark slipped off the wood like a pat of butter off a hot ear of sweet corn.

I spent the rest of the afternoon getting the peeled bark ready for drying and, later, storage and easy resoaking.

It’s been drying under the eaves on the porch. Today I’ll move it into my studio to finish drying.

I’ll post details about the Decorah willow conference soon. In the meantime, here’s a short video I took of Bill while we were harvesting.

You’ll see that he uses the wood in his rustic furniture, and I save the leaves for dyeing. Willow is an amazing renewable resource.

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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin