Over the years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time carefully watching hands. Hands of students. Hands of instructors. Hands of friends. Jo Campbell-Amsler was my first basketry teacher. I’ve been watching her hands for almost 20 years. And I’ve known her mother nearly that long.
But until last week, when her mom was in my coiling class at the Willow Gathering in Decorah, I never saw how much alike their hands are. The way they hold and control their materials, their gestures — beautiful!
Coilers are such a delightful group. It’s a slow, deliberate process. It takes time for things to build and then Shazaam — something wonderful happens.
Quixote Coiling is my name for a class that uses whole-rod willow as the core element in vessels made with the basketmaker’s buttonhole stitch. There’s a knot on each stitch, which makes this an incredibly secure structure, great for sculptural work. And students learned a cool crown knot they used to start the base and as a surface embellishment.
Their hands were definitely tired at the end of the class. Willow is lively material. But it’s so worth the effort.