Our journey began with a basket & a happy encounter with one of our first makers, Rysiu. Every weekend in Jacek’s home town a local farmers field unfurls a fantastic market where you can purchase anything from engine parts, re-purposed tools, clothing & fresh baked bread to organic food, antiques, world war memorabilia & traditional crafts. In amongst this buzzing throng of traders was our very first basket; hand made by Rysiu, whose knowledge & skill still amazes us.
Working as a basket maker & trader, commissioning different designs from a highly skilled local pool of makers, Rysiu had previously trained as a photographer so it was only a matter of minutes before the conversation wandered from baskets, to sculpture, photography & the importance of quality handmade products. I vividly remember him explaining that there’s still work in basket repairs & it hit home just how far the UK had moved away from quality, affordable & repairable products. Makers & designers will know only too well the extremes that the super producers & markets have taken, either offshoring labour & materials to churn out cheap products made to be replaced not repaired or overpriced designer knockoffs that reward the retailer more than the artist behind the work, & the difficulty in trying to market skilfully made products designed to last in a consumer driven, resource wasting culture.
When this pursuit for finding quality handmade products became a big part of what we busied our days with as a young business, it was only fitting that we would call it Travelling Basket.
Our business was born through need, our own need. We started our journey looking for functioning goods. We had just completed our self build mobile studio & wanted to kit it out to meet our various needs on the road. That included several baskets (for wood, bedding, tools etc.), an array of tools & a mountain sheep skin for our bench (because the hollow fibres would keep us warm sitting outside whilst working on the road), especially important as we hadn’t yet installed the micro stove in the studio.
Starting the search for these products with our dream designs in mind we very easily could have headed into town to the nearest shopping center & wandered effortlessly from one super retailer to the next. But we wanted to know a little bit about where these products came from, how they had been made & if possible meet the people who made them. These thoughts & questions that formed as we meticulously honed down the list of objects required to meet the needs of our micro space set us firmly on the road of one of our most exciting, inspiring & motivating journeys… & we are very fortunate to still see that road ahead of us.
This exciting journey took us to meet our makers.
We have always believed in handmade, quality & skill, something that as makers & artists rings true in all our work. Over the years if we personally didn’t have the skills for a particular job or project, then collaboration, skill sharing & innovation has been the way forwards. That is why, with Travelling Basket, we have chosen to work closely with our makers to ensure this passion & these skills are passed down through the products we collect. As we surrounded ourselves with beautifully designed products made with skill & built to be a part of our lasting environment, we couldn’t help think that this was a gift to these countries & regions lucky enough to still have hand skills & crafts form part of their everyday lives & culture.
This autumn, whilst travelling to look for new producers, we caught up with Rysiu at his totally wonderful part renovated barn basket studio. He was going to teach us some basket making skills, talk us through the processes involved & let us in on some of his life learned knowledge on willow work.
There’s something so wonderful about the social element to hand crafts; how folk music & popular culture has often given room & supported these crafts & the products themselves have enabled people to connect, to learn, to enjoy & for the skills to be passed on. Working with your hands in a rhythm honed with time & practice, the mind wanders to quiet spaces away from the bustle of our normal lives & we found we had time to really engage.
Rysiu had a wealth of stories, & working with his hands he was free to wander with the conversation. Even in regions & countries where hand crafts have managed to remain worthwhile & valued trades, they are still experiencing the pressures of cheap imports and plastic alternatives. When you have to wait for the willow to grow its hard to imagine how these makers could ever compete, but they do & we were pleased to hear that there has been a resurgence of interest in learning these skills & working again with our hands.
At Travelling Basket we set out to bring the beauty of traditionally hand crafted products to UK markets, seeking out & developing a lasting relationship with all our makers to support sustainable businesses & traditional crafts.
Each time we catch up with our makers a new breath of energy & passion is given to the work of Travelling Basket & we are reminded just how important supporting traditional crafts, skills & innovation is. We are passionate believers of buying less & better, & we value products that have proven themselves through design, material & craftsmanship to be dependable. Learning all of this from our makers inspires us to continue on this journey & we cant wait to meet our next maker & skill.
Until next time, wishing you all well & creative, N&J.