Annemarie O’Sullivan has created a collection of works, as part of our new ‘Plant Explorations’ collection.
Annemarie is an expert in creating contemporary works using ancient British basket-making techniques, with an emphasis on organic, sustainable practice. Whilst exploring the Economic Botany Collection at Kew Gardens, facilitated by The New Craftsmen, Annemarie was most taken with the items which involved the bundling, binding and compression of plant materials. With this in mind, she has created a varied collection for our ‘Plant Explorations’ exhibition: a knotted cane light, white Somerset willow baskets and a beautiful white willow mobile.
In the Knap Light, the dynamic wildness of 8,000 cane knots contrast against an ordered wooden framework. The word ‘Knap’ is an old English word that refers to the ‘crest of a hill’ - a nod to Annemarie’s East Sussex surroundings and its landscape, which provide constant inspiration.
The Knap Light is a celebration of the simple repetition of knotting. The cane, which is so often used in an orderly manner, is pushed into a dense mass to form a striking sculptural piece, rich with layers of illumination. The framework is inspired by the elegance and efficiency of Japanese craftsmanship - reflected in the honest, highly skilled and transparent construction.
In contrast to the volume of the Knap Light, Annemarie looked to the negative space between the patchwork fields of East Sussex to create the Smeuse Mobile I. While walking through the fields, she considered the beauty of their irregular, skewed shapes and the ever-changing hedgerows that enclose them. ‘Smeuse’ is an old Sussex word, which describes the gap in the base of a hedge made by the frequent passage of small animals.
Each willow rod is ‘scallomed’, a process of cutting a ribbon at the end in order to create a section thin enough to be tied. The rods are then soaked in water to make them pliable. She then forms the corners with creases and ties the scallomed ends onto the next rod. The delicate pieces float around each other, continually redefining themselves in the space they share. Light and shadow slowly shift, evoking the low evening sun as it plays through the hedges.
The shape and scale of the Coomb baskets evoke a sense of sharing. Annemarie found inspiration in the Victorian ‘plant hunters’, who travelled the world, finding and recording plant specimens. The four handles signify teamwork and the joining together in a spirit of adventure like the original plant hunters. Closer to home, she also took inspiration from the beautiful gentle scoops in the chalky hillsides around her home in East Sussex. The baskets are emblematic of the gathering of both materials and people.
Photographs of Annemarie O’Sullivan and her husband Tom McWalter in their studio by Jonathan Bassett.