The Norfolk Basket Company is a partnership between myself and my wife and former apprentice Ruth Kidd. I have been making willow baskets professionally since 1985 and have run willow basket making courses since 1989. My interest in the craft was initially sparked by coming across an old basketmaker at Fakenham market in Norfolk. I was intrigued by the vast variety of baskets, all with different names and uses. I was looking for a way out of my job working on North Sea oil rigs and within a couple of months, helped with a grant from the Rural Development Commission I found myself apprenticed to Terry Bensley in Great Yarmouth. Terry, now retired was a Master Basketmaker and taught me a full range of traditional English willow basketry from small fruit pickers to willow furniture. Ruth became my apprentice in 1997 and we have worked together ever since.
We have continually sought to expand and refine our quality willow baskets. Our range currently includes picnic hampers, shopping baskets, log baskets, mushroom foragers, toy baskets, vegetable gatherers, linen trunks, bread baskets, fruit baskets, herring crans, flower baskets, Irish potato skibs, peg and egg baskets, apple cobs, blackberry pickers, bike baskets, letter trays, shopping trolleys, kitchen baskets, butcher and baker trade baskets, ali baba baskets, eel traps, fishing creels, willow and hazel backpacks, Perigourdins, willow cribs, tension trays, wet and dry washing baskets, Provencal cheese trays, pottager’s trugs and many more.
Together we cultivate around forty varieties of willows on our three willow beds in Norfolk. We cut willows in January and use these alongside willows from Somerset and France to make a full range of traditional and contemporary work.
Nowadays selling mainly from our home studio/workshop and our web site, we also still attend smaller shows around Norfolk and Suffolk to meet old and new customers. In August we make our annual trip to sell and demonstrate at the renowned Fete de la Vannerie in Provence, the largest Basket Festival in France, where we exchange techniques with basket makers from all over Europe. Many of our designs are influenced by the European baskets we see at the Festival.
A full order book means we no longer have the time to attend the RHS Show at Tatton Park or the Country Living Events in London and Glasgow. However, we can always been found at the Burnham Market Craft Fair in August, Aylsham Show on August Bank Holiday Monday and Blackthorpe Barn Christmas Markets near Bury St Edmunds Christmas events in November and December (check our events page for up and coming dates).
Some past and present customers include David Mellor Design, Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate, Divertimenti, Few and Far Between in London, Bianco Nero Gallery in Yorkshire, The Linen Press, Interior Designers Colefax & Fowler, Thorp Design, New From Old and Indigo Design Associates.
My teaching experience started with Adult Education classes in Norfolk back in 1989, these proved very successful, so much so that I decided to arrange my own weekend courses and in 1998 offered ten courses which were very well attended. Many students re-booking for further courses, some students returning many times and several now working as professional makers.
I have also taught several times for the Basket Makers Association on their week long summer/spring schools in York, Hampshire and Buckinghamshire. Students from these courses have since attended my weekend courses.
In 2003 one of my weekend courses was attended by a Canadian basketmaker, who subsequently invited us to teach on Salt Spring Island, B.C. Canada. There was an enthusiastic group of basketmakers in that part of the country and they commissioned us to return again in 2004 and 2005 to teach on Salt Spring Island, Gabriola Island and Mount Vernon, Washington,U.S.A
Click here for course dates this year.
We have a workshop at our home in Burgh next Aylsham, Norfolk, which is always stocked with a full range of basketry. We also sell by mail order. Commissions also undertaken, please contact us to discuss your requirements.
Further examples of our baskets can be seen at www.basketmaker.net/AdrianCharlton.