Our Approach

After collaborating for the past five years on various projects, we've taken the leap and have officially joined forces!  We are a mother-daughter partnership with a shared passion for combining traditional basket making and willow growing with innovative and unique design.

 

  As a basket maker and willow grower for the past 30 years, Jenny Crisp (the mother), brings a wealth of experience having devoted her career to mastering traditional willow weaving skills and techniques. Issy Wilkes (the daughter) on the other hand is trained in designing for theatre, festivals, and events, bringing a unique and imaginative approach to each project.  Together we’ve created Willow with Roots, a company steeped in heritage, devoted to high quality crafts(wo)manship, and unabashedly pushing the boundaries of what willow can do. 

Professional Basketmakers, Mother-daughter partnership, Jenny Crisp and Issy Wilkes

 Over the years she has designer stages for festivals, built sculptures over 9 metres tall, made props for pantomimes and decorations for wedding venues. Her jobs are always exciting and new, always working with a plethora of different people.

  Despite the obvious differences in their professional fields, over the years Jenny and Issy have often collaborated on projects combining willow weaving and design to make sculptures for festivals and events. After becoming a mother herself in 2018, Issy returned to her roots and both mothers joined forces.

Thus.. Willow with Roots was born

Basketmaker, Willow Weaver Issy WIleks making a woven lampshade

With our great expertise and versatile approach, we’re able to produce anything in willow whether it be; indoor or outdoor pieces, large or small scale, dried or living willow, functional or decorative. One day we’ll be designing and weaving bespoke lampshades for a sustainable restaurants, the next day we’re building a 9 metre tall willow man outside in the rain… we’re up for it all! 

 

We also offer willow workshops for many skill levels, curating willow projects specifically for social or educational purposes. In the past we worked with schools, theatres, the national trust and music festivals to run exciting project in willow. 

OUR STORY

  The Willow with Roots story starts with Jenny Crisp, renowned basketmaker, willow grower and author.  Jenny started her career as a basket maker at the age of 24. She trained with David Drew in the south of France for 5 years, before returning home to England with the desire to make her living solely from basket making. She set up her own workshop and planted her first willow field in 1980 and has been weaving ever since. She has made baskets for royalty, award-winning films like ‘Gladiator’ and her work is exhibited in The V&A, London.

    Eight years into her career Jenny had her daughter Issy. From then on she became a fulltime mother as well as full-time basketmaker, both vocations that require complete dedication! Therefore Issy spent her childhood next to Jenny making baskets in her workshop and playing in the willow fields.

Baby Issy in white willow basket, The beginning of Willow with roots - traditional basketmakers
Jenny and Issy, The beginning of Willow with roots - traditional basketmakers

Despite the golden question from every adult she met 'are you going to be a basketmaker when you grow up?', Issy never wanted to follow directly in her mothers footsteps. Instead she chose an art form that was more collaborative, studying 'Design for Performance’ at Royal Welsh College of music and drama. Her time at University introduced her to a wealth of skilled designers, prop makers, scenic artists, model makers, construction teams, costume makers, the list could go on. She found that theatre was the most collaborative art form their is. After graduating with a first class  honours, Issy began a freelance career in both the theatre and events industries 

 Over the years she has designer stages for festivals, built sculptures over 9 metres tall, made props for pantomimes and decorations for wedding venues. Her jobs are always exciting and new, always working with a plethora of different people.

  Despite the obvious differences in their professional fields, over the years Jenny and Issy have often collaborated on projects combining willow weaving and design to make sculptures for festivals and events. After becoming a mother herself in 2018, Issy returned to her roots and both mothers joined forces.

Thus.. Willow with Roots was born

OUR WILLOW

We grow over 15 types of willow, varying from small, fine, shrub growing willow to larger, thicker varieties. This means we are able to tailor our materials to suit projects of any scale. Depending on the years growing conditions we are able to produce willow in a plethora of colours, ranging from vibrant greens to the deepest reds. The willow is harvested in the winter months then processed and sorted into graded bundles. From this point the bundles are dried and stored, ready for new commissions.

 

Professional basketmaker Jenny has had numerous willow fields during her career. The first was established in 1986 and since she has taken cuttings from each successive one to start the next. Her current field was planted in 1998 and was recently featured in her book Willow which is a fantastic resource for more detailed information about planting and growing your own willow field. 

 

 

 

Willow wih roots, Willow growing in our fields - Professional Basketmakers Jenny Crisp and Issy Wilkes, Photo by Sarah Weal
Willow sorting, processing Basketmakers and weavers, Jenny Crisp and Issy Wilkes
Willow Growing at Oldfields Farm, Basketmakers and weavers, Jenny Crisp and Issy Wilkes

 

  With jenny’s magic cuttings, Issy planted her own willow field in 2014 on Oldfield's Cider farm where she lives. Her and partner planted the field as part of a ‘WET System’ (Wetland Ecosystem Treatment) to help the cider works filter their effluent. The willow is planted on the banks of four irrigation pools, the roots act as a natural filtration system, returning the waste water back to fresh water.

WILLOW HARVEST  2018

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