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Annemarie O’Sullivan

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Annemarie O’Sullivan

Creativity has not always been at the fore of my life! I grew up in Ireland in an environment where academia and sticking to the rules were the most important ideals. The arts were simply not valued. I moved to the UK aged 17, and eventually became a primary school teacher. By the time I was 30, I was married with two young sons and then felt an overwhelming desire to work with my hands.

Fourteen years ago, I took a one-day basketmaking course. This provided the inspiration for change, and was the beginning of an obsession. After making my first basket, I dreamt of the smooth, fluid strokes of the willow. A five-year, once per week basketry training course followed at City Lit, where I learnt a broad range of basketry skills, using a variety of materials. I realised I was drawn to willow, and this has been the basis of what became my business seven years ago.

Annemarie O’Sullivan
On a half-acre plot in East Sussex, I cultivate twenty varieties of willow that I work with, although I have a soft spot for Dicky Meadows. It is a beautiful slender rod with a lovely grey-green hue; the bark is very stable and it is particularly flexible.

My designs draw on ancient basketmaking techniques and embrace the arts of weaving and binding that have been used for thousands of years. Part of my work is comprised of simple domestic objects, such as baskets, brushes and trays.

The process of nurturing the whole cycle is important to the basketmaking process.

Annemarie O’Sullivan

The basketmaking process includes planting, cutting and harvesting of the willow itself, followed by sorting it all by size and type into bolts that must then be dried. After this, the willow is soaked in preparation for weaving. Each are vital parts of the bigger picture. In the spring, the plot transforms into a beautiful jungle, with iridescent spring buds bulging through the brutally hacked winter stubble. Buzzards nest overhead and snakes, deer and all manner of wildlife venture in. The landscape feels very alive.

Annemarie O’Sullivan

My workshop is a contemporary wooden studio in the garden of my rural Sussex home. It was built by my husband, Tom McWalter, who has become my first apprentice. Tom has supported me for years, financially and emotionally, but he has always been a maker. To have the opportunity to share my skills and take the business forward with him feels very special. We also offer basketmaking courses for beginners and advanced makers.

Annemarie O’Sullivan

As with any craft, continued learning is key and support from organisations like QEST (The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust) provided me with invaluable funding via their QEST D’Oyly Carte Scholarship. This enabled me to refine new skills with the best of the best across Europe; including Alexandra Marks in Italy, Les Llewellyn in Wales, Alison Fitzgerald in Northern Ireland and Mary Butcher in Kent. I have also had mentoring through the Crafts Council Hothouse programme, which supports emerging makers. My projects are very physical. I use my whole body, getting down on the ground with a knee or a foot on the work to keep it in place. Curiously, the movement of weaving reminds me of the freedom I feel when swimming, another of my passions.

Annemarie O’Sullivan

The tools of the trade are simplistic: a bodkin to create space between the weave, a cow horn (in which the bodkin is stored) containing tallow to lubricate, a short-bladed knife for cutting, and a tiny pair of Japanese side cutters to trim ends and create a sleek, refined finish. After harvesting, I use all of these tools to bend, weave and shape my baskets into life. I am constantly sourcing ideas for baskets and storing them; I always have a collection of found items such as scraps, knots, found treasure and fragments of possibilities. It’s where I draw my inspiration. I love that my baskets come to fruition from my own handiwork from start to finish!

My baskets are beautiful and robust–I want them to get dirty and be enjoyed to the fullest.

Annemarie O’Sullivan

Annemarie O’Sullivan

Creativity has not always been at the fore of my life! I grew up in Ireland in an environment where academia and sticking to the rules were the most important ideals. The arts were simply not valued. I moved to the UK aged 17, and eventually became a primary school teacher. By the time I was 30, I was married with two young sons and then felt an overwhelming desire to work with my hands.

Fourteen years ago, I took a one-day basketmaking course. This provided the inspiration for change, and was the beginning of an obsession. After making my first basket, I dreamt of the smooth, fluid strokes of the willow. A five-year, once per week basketry training course followed at City Lit, where I learnt a broad range of basketry skills, using a variety of materials. I realised I was drawn to willow, and this has been the basis of what became my business seven years ago.

Annemarie O’Sullivan

On a half-acre plot in East Sussex, I cultivate twenty varieties of willow that I work with, although I have a soft spot for Dicky Meadows. It is a beautiful slender rod with a lovely grey-green hue; the bark is very stable and it is particularly flexible.

My designs draw on ancient basketmaking techniques and embrace the arts of weaving and binding that have been used for thousands of years. Part of my work is comprised of simple domestic objects, such as baskets, brushes and trays.

The process of nurturing the whole cycle is important to the basketmaking process.

Annemarie O’Sullivan

The basketmaking process includes planting, cutting and harvesting of the willow itself, followed by sorting it all by size and type into bolts that must then be dried. After this, the willow is soaked in preparation for weaving. Each are vital parts of the bigger picture. In the spring, the plot transforms into a beautiful jungle, with iridescent spring buds bulging through the brutally hacked winter stubble. Buzzards nest overhead and snakes, deer and all manner of wildlife venture in. The landscape feels very alive.

Annemarie O’Sullivan

My workshop is a contemporary wooden studio in the garden of my rural Sussex home. It was built by my husband, Tom McWalter, who has become my first apprentice. Tom has supported me for years, financially and emotionally, but he has always been a maker. To have the opportunity to share my skills and take the business forward with him feels very special. We also offer basketmaking courses for beginners and advanced makers.

Annemarie O’Sullivan

As with any craft, continued learning is key and support from organisations like QEST (The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust) provided me with invaluable funding via their QEST D’Oyly Carte Scholarship. This enabled me to refine new skills with the best of the best across Europe; including Alexandra Marks in Italy, Les Llewellyn in Wales, Alison Fitzgerald in Northern Ireland and Mary Butcher in Kent. I have also had mentoring through the Crafts Council Hothouse programme, which supports emerging makers. My projects are very physical. I use my whole body, getting down on the ground with a knee or a foot on the work to keep it in place. Curiously, the movement of weaving reminds me of the freedom I feel when swimming, another of my passions.

Annemarie O’Sullivan

The tools of the trade are simplistic: a bodkin to create space between the weave, a cow horn (in which the bodkin is stored) containing tallow to lubricate, a short-bladed knife for cutting, and a tiny pair of Japanese side cutters to trim ends and create a sleek, refined finish. After harvesting, I use all of these tools to bend, weave and shape my baskets into life. I am constantly sourcing ideas for baskets and storing them; I always have a collection of found items such as scraps, knots, found treasure and fragments of possibilities. It’s where I draw my inspiration. I love that my baskets come to fruition from my own handiwork from start to finish!

My baskets are beautiful and robust–I want them to get dirty and be enjoyed to the fullest.

Annemarie O’Sullivan