About Leilah Vyner
How I started Dragon Willow
I started willow weaving as a hobby through Medieval Re-enactment around 2000, the first items I made were life sized willow bee skeps, eel traps, quivers, chicken cages and many other medieval items. Surprisingly I didn’t make a basket in the first year of willow weaving.
As time moved on, I moved away from the medieval scene and started to make more everyday products including baskets and decorations. Due to the amount of people who asked me, I then started to run workshops in basketry and garden items. I also started to learn how to make greenwood spoons and bowls using traditional hand tools.
Quite a few years later I moved to a place called Greenhow in North Yorkshire; this was an idyllic rural location in the Yorkshire Dales where I thought I could expand my hobby. However the climate was too extreme to run a willow weaving business from, so I ended up moving to Tadcaster where the climate is much friendlier, this is where I started creating willow sculptures.
How did I learn to weave willow?
Initially and for many years I learnt from books, my husband bought me a book called Willow Work written by a lovely lady called Mary Butcher who I met many years later. Later when I’d moved to Tadcaster I started to attend workshops put on by the Baster makers Association which I had become a member of and I have now studied with:
Carlos Fontales from Galicia, Spain learning the Nasa Technique, this is an historic technique found around the Mediterranean region, mainly used to make fish traps, ‘gambina’ (www.carlosfontales.blogspot.com). I have also studied with Debbie Hall of Salix arts and she taught me how to make her lovely Willow Handbags (www.salixarts.co.uk). I have also studied how to make framed baskets and random weaved baskets with Anne Mette Hjornholm from Denmark (www.hjornholm.dk). Sculptural basketry with Lisa Bech (www.lisebechbaskets.net) Also square work with Eddie Glew (www.blithfieldwillowcrafts.co.uk).
What do I fill my days with now?
Today you will find me merrily weaving in my workshop and enjoying the opportunity to run my own willow weaving business. My workshop is in a beautiful place, at Stockwell Stud and Livery Stables, Kirkby Wharfe near Tadcaster in North Yorkshire. I work to commission as well as selling stock on my website and also hire sculptures to the public as well as the many other things a willow weaver does from running courses in sculpture and basketry to working in schools and giving talks to groups.
My interest in historical basketry is still there and when I get time I like to practice some of the skills being lost around the world as plastic has quickly become the materiel of choice. I enjoy making and love every sculpture and basket that leaves my workshop, I hope to continue on my willow journey and make bigger and better sculptures and baskets in the future.