In the long history of English willow basketmaking, Catherine Beaumont stands as one of the craft’s latest masters. It all started with a weekend course in 1996. Now, with her skills honed, Catherine transforms willow from Somerset, as well as willow grown near her West Sussex home, into artfully practical pieces. The secret behind her success? A reverence for tradition balanced with an inspired eye for the modern. Catherine specialises in using heritage UK basketmaking techniques to create contemporary baskets.
There’s no doubt that baskets made by Catherine Beaumont are works of art. But that doesn’t stop you from wanting to touch and use them. Their earthy naturalness makes it hard to tell where the beauty of the raw materials ends and the skill of the maker begins.
Since turning her hand to basketmaking in the 1990s, Catherine has learned her craft inside out. She’s studied traditional techniques at the elbow of a second-generation expert, Jack West, whose mentoring Catherine values immensely. She has also collected antique baskets and followed the work of makers from around the world. All of this knowledge combines with her own innate inspiration to translate flexible rods of willow into woven pieces crammed with character.
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Catherine describes the act of weaving as feeling like a continuous flow of energy, a meditative activity where mind and body work in harmony. This is immediately visible in her work. Many pieces have a sense of swirling movement spiralling up from the base to the top. Subtle gradations of colour and contrasting woven patterns emphasise this. Wrapped or robust wooden handles make Catherine’s baskets comfortable to carry – these are hardwearing baskets intended for everyday use.
Experimentation with shape is seen throughout this collection. With baskets being traditionally used for everything from foraging and flower picking to laundry and home storage, there are plenty of forms from which to take inspiration. Think honeypot shapes for logs, open-sided options for gathering flowers and oval takes on garden trugs.