Carrying The Line

Blue skies, mild temps, dry feet and gloves — my second day volunteering on the Patrick Dougherty installation at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point could not have been more perfect.
Work in progress on Patrick Dougherty installation at UWSP.
With no ice on the decking today, I worked from scaffolding. Between what I learned yesterday and having willow from home, I felt like I had better control of the material.

Work in progress on Patrick Dougherty installation at Stevens Point.

This slit window is on the outside of one of the structures nearest the sidewalk. There are doorways on two walls opposite the window. My task was to carry the line element around three sides of the structure, integrating it with one of the doorways. It’s challenging to “see” around corners and through scaffolding. I’m sure that would improve with more experience. But I took the safe route and asked Patrick to check my work every hour or so to make sure my interpretation matched his vision, which ties all the structures together.

Work in progress on Patrick Dougherty installation at University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

With a bit more fill just a little higher than I can reach, I think this structure will be getting its cap before long.

Work in progress on the Patrick Dougherty installation at Stevens Point.

A group started working on another of the structures today. Others were doing fill work inside structures. And one person was doing the important but unsung work of preparing materials for others to use.

Work in progress on Patrick Dougherty installation at Stevens Point.

It was a delight to see a familiar face among the volunteer crew — basketmaker Elise Thornton, who I know from a class at Sievers. She helped me pull the load of willow I hauled over there out of the bed of the pickup truck first thing this morning. It wasn’t gone but was greatly diminished by the time I left.

Back at home, the path I stomped down through the snow yesterday so I could carry cut willow to the truck is still there. But there was a patch of dry ground where yesterday I was parked in slush and mud. I hope that bodes well for the work crew at Stevens Point, who will be cutting more willow tomorrow. They’ve had some really challenging conditions on this installation, and deserve a day where you can see a big pile of progress.

No picture of my favorite moment of the day (naturally): The grandparents of one of the student volunteers came to see the work. It’s so much fun to see how people interact with the work in progress!

Tomorrow, back to my own work, and to reflecting on some things I learned from volunteering on the Dougherty installation.

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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

10 thoughts on “Carrying The Line”

  1. You realize that I’m totally impressed. So out of my line of expertise. Gald you had so much fun!

  2. Suzanne, you have plenty of expertise that would be perfect for a project like this! In addition to your basketry skills there’s your work ethic and good humor — very important. Sadly, you’re as disadvantaged as I am height-wise 🙂 But if you ever have a chance to do this, you would love it and they’d be delighted to have you!

  3. Donna, envy is not a good thing, but boy would I have loved to be there :o)
    How lucky for you to have such an opportunity near by.

  4. Hi Donna, One of these years I hope to work with Patrick. It has never worked out for me, but I still have hope. Curious, does Patrick use any sort of framework to build upon, such as welded rods or other metal materials? Val

    1. Between what I saw and what I heard from other volunteers, I believe all the structures were based on a framework of sticks that were buried 2 feet deep in groups of 3 around the perimeter of the structure. (No rebar anywhere that I could see.) Then a minimal amount of weaving was used to tie the stakes together, then weaving and filling commenced. I really wish I could see the whole progression. Actually, I really wish we could get Patrick to Iowa where the community of willow weavers could live out our dreams!

  5. These are beautiful; I have never had the chance to see structures like this in the process of being built. Thanks for posting these photos.

    What a perfect way for you to use your talents!

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