“I was drawn to basket-making because it allowed my wife and I to live in the Irish countryside,” laughs artisan weaver Joe Hogan, by way of explanation for his move to Loch na Fooey, in County Galway, 35 years ago. This verdant area is where his willow plantation grows today and where he creates traditional Irish baskets and bespoke sculptural reinterpretationsusing lichen, dry bark, tree roots and bog pine.
For those seeking something sublimely classic, bowls (from €230-€1,000) and baskets (from €300) interlace willows of various widths and shades into traditional curvilinear forms. “I use several types of willow but mainly Salix pupurea, which tends to be long and slender and resistant to disease,” says Hogan. Vivid reds come courtesy of Salix alba chermesina, and blue or purple hues from Salix daphnoides. They]re not only colourful, their strength and lightness is such that during the second world war these were the rods that were used to craft the British military’s airborne panniers.
Many of Hogan’s artistic organic takes on baskets often incorporate ancient tree roots foraged from nearby bogland (such as Ebb and Flow, €4,500, third picture), which create sensual shapes. Once the size, purpose and tone have been locked down for a commission, Hogan sketches designs and sources the materials. Some have peat-stained or bleached driftwood “collars”, while smaller bog wood pouches (from €900-€2,400) and bowls (such as one made of lichen, second picture) evoke the wildness of nature in their untamed beauty. Ethereal vessels (such as Up For Air, price on request, first picture) resemble large nests – their entwined birch, myrtle and lichen-encrusted twigs add texture and depth.
Hogan also delights in weaving site-specific pod-like, swirling installations in green catkin, cone-studded larch twigs and rhododendron – many of which are displayed in groups by enthusiastic collectors and added to over time. Pieces range in size from just 10cm in diameter to 1m or more in length and take anywhere from two weeks to several months to complete, depending on the complexity of the work and the materials involved.
These creations are not only a glorious celebration of nature and one-of-a-kind sculptural delights, but they’re also a wonderful way of preserving the vanishing craft of Irish basket making.
For more interiors that connect with nature’s wayward vigour, take a look at furniture design inspired by trees.