Having finally planted the rest of my tulip bulbs,yes I know I am the last person in the country to get them IN… I blame the weather and the Christmas rush…. What a sight I must have been wrapped up in several coats, planting up tubs in the freezing wind which blows straight from Siberia! I then turned my attention to the next project – the restoration of two newly purchased antique Fishing Creels.
For those who don’t know what these are, cast your mind back to Beatrix Potter and The Tale of Jeremy Fisher, do you remember the bandy legged frog who leapt across the lily pads with his fishing creel swinging off his amphibian hip?
These beautiful examples of basket work have always captured my attention. Traditionally they are made from Somerset Willow and not wicker which is actually made from Bamboo. Fishing Creels are made from willow for very good reasons – It doesn’t matter if they get wet, and willow contains tannin, a natural preservative, which will keep your catch fresh all day. Just pop the fish into the basket, and keep fishing!
Many years ago, I used to go fishing regularly in Finland, and there we used split hazel baskets, but would pluck fresh Alder or Willow branches from the side of the lake and put these over our freshly caught sik. So simple but it
is amazing how well it works. It saddens me to see fishermen today putting their catch into plastic or canvas bags.
I have always wanted to make a creel, but I am not a trained basket weaver. Many years ago I worked alongside a
brilliant artisan when I started work as a saddler at the Cirencester workshops. His name was Mike Smith and I started to produce my WYE VALLEY CREELS, which we are still selling today. Mike wove the willow baskets to a traditional design and I made the leather straps from the strongest English bridle leather. He told me how to care for and revive old baskets, and this was my second job of the day. Soaking my two old creels in water, with just a little detergent, and then gently scrubbing off the grime with a brush, letting them dry off a little and brushing them over with a vegetable oil. It is amazing how the beautiful golden straw colour comes back to life. I will then lovingly restore the leather work, and soon they will be put on our website for sale.