Based in East Sussex, Annemarie O'Sullivan makes contemporary baskets using ancient British basket-making techniques. Annemarie grows around twenty varieties of willow, which she harvests by hand on a half-acre plot near her home. Working from a wooden studio in her garden, Annemarie creates both small-scale domestic objects and larger woven sculptures. Her baskets have been featured in The New York Times, The Irish Times, House and Garden and Country Living.
Based in East Sussex, Annemarie O'Sullivan makes contemporary baskets using ancient British basket-making techniques. She grows around 20 varieties of willow, which she harvests by hand on a half-acre plot near her home. Working from a wooden studio in her garden, Annemarie creates both small-scale domestic objects and larger woven sculptures. Her baskets have been featured in The New York Times, The Irish Times, House and Garden and Country Living.
Annemarie is invested in organic, sustainable practice. Engaging with every step from harvesting to weaving, her work draws on the curves of the landscape and demonstrates a connection with nature that results in beautiful baskets, steeped in history. Annemarie has travelled and learnt from makers of different traditions, collaborating along the way, always mindful to acknowledge the extraordinary legacy of the makers who came before.
1. What motivates you to make?
I work with my apprentice Matilda and my husband Tom McWalter to produce all our woven objects. I love the process involved in building the work together; from growing the willow, to sending-off the finished piece. We all enjoy the tangible nature of what we do. Together we continue the tradition of basketmaking, and in doing so, celebrate the natural world. I feel strongly that this is our responsibility, and have a strong desire to embody the rich stories and varied traditions of the places I have visited, whilst also treading lightly on the earth.
2. What and/or who are you most inspired or influenced by?
Inspired by the resourcefulness of humans, I have a soft spot for vernacular buildings, the natural world, and the weather (whatever it brings!). I enjoy wild landscapes and especially love how these have been navigated by humans carrying their wares since the beginning of time.
3. What is your unique approach to your craft, and how have you honed your skills?
I have a very immediate relationship with the materials. We grow our own willow and harvest local sweet chestnut. There is a long journey with the willow before we start making a basket; harvesting, drying, sorting, then more sorting, soaking and mellowing.
Having travelled and learnt from makers of different traditions, I love to collaborate with makers from other disciplines and I’m always looking to work playfully, to identify gaps in the world that could benefit from having a woven object in them. Every task is repeated and repeated – like dance steps. Each time we repeat, the moves get smoother and the dance becomes more beautiful.
4. What is your defining or proudest moment as a maker so far?
I really enjoyed the Orkney project with The New Craftsmen, and felt that some very exciting work was developed which really celebrated the materials, whilst reaching back and acknowledging the extraordinary legacy of all the makers who came before us.
5. What is your dream project?
A dream project might include some of the following: time for play and one-offs, collaboration, a fully immersive residency in a wild place with materials and little modern distraction. A long-term relationship with a place and a person, an instinctive exchange of ideas, an uncomfortable or challenging conversation. Letting go of control and ‘the schedule’.
To find out more about commissioning Annemarie O'Sullivan for a bespoke piece or to be kept informed about new collections from this particular maker, please email [email protected]
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