Tanya Doty has been crafting willow baskets from her workshop in Upper Moutere since her first basket making course with Golden Bay basketmaker Peter Greer in 2008. Largely self taught since then Tanya is firmly addicted to basket making and spends most of her days bending bundles of willow sticks into baskets.
Tanya describes her practice:
I work with willow and natural fibres which is lucky because it’s what I love to do. I started making willow baskets and have added general handy stuff to my skill set – plant supports for the garden are popular, re-seating rush and seagrass chairs is something I’ve taken on in the past year or two. I grow a small amount of basketry willow but demand far out strips supply so when that happens I use rattan cane or use other found materials like ivy, hops, virginia creeper… it’s all just a matter of matching the material to the technique or style of basket that’s being made. I cherish the connection to the earth through the materials and knowing that my hands are keeping ancient crafts alive while making useful sustainable pieces that will last for many years.
From a little vintage caravan at the end of her garden in Upper Moutere, Nelson, Tanya makes willow baskets in an array of styles and shapes.. “I work with many different fibres and types of basket making, and while I like to keep it diverse, I’m firmly addicted to willow,” says Tanya. “It’s such an old craft and it’s very cool that it still has a place in modern day life. I love the smell, and the sound it makes when I’m weaving. I love that it takes strength to construct a basket and that some of the willow I use is from my own small willow bed. I grow four varieties that have traditionally been cultivated for basket making.” For Tanya, the real joy of basketry lies in making something that’s both decorative and practical. “It’s a good feeling having made a permanent, useful household item from something that has sprung up from the earth, and when it’s finally had its day, it can go back to where it’s come from.” Tanya also enjoys experimenting with other natural fibres such as raupo, pine needles, rattan, and foraged fibres, bringing a contemporary feel to the age old craft of basket making. Finding it hard to keep her hands still Tanya has added blessing stones to her repertoire.
Tanya has completed many commissioned pieces both commercial and private, recently working with Deadly Ponies brand creating rattan handles and key charms as an addition to their handbag collection. She welcomes the interactions and exploration of techniques that come with commissions.
Tanya delights in resurrecting spent beauty, reinterpreting how natural elements are viewed and displayed. “Using what’s around me in nature I have a bounty at my fingertips. In the garden or at the beach I pounce on these treasures, already half reimagined into its other life.” Trial by experimentation and a deep seated need to have her hands in nature fuel her creative process.
Tanya teaches throughout New Zealand, offering her first workshop in Wellington 2018, teaching Pine Needle Baskets.
She regularly co-tutors with her basket making teacher Peter Greer at his workshop in Golden Bay teaching willow baskets. Tanya has twice been tutor at the annual Go Wild With Weaving event in Golden Bay.
Regular workshops from Upper Moutere, mostly in rattan and other natural fibres are part of Tanya’s weaving life.
Her own supply of willow is growing and the round basket workshop in Opunake will be the first willow workshop she has offered.
Tanya writes about her own history of becoming a basket artist and how that informs her drive to teach :
When I first became interested in learning basketmaking pre-internet days, the craft had really fallen by the way side and I could find limited information and it was pure luck to find an actual person who could show me how to go about starting. While I understood the construction methods of a basket, it took me quite some time to be able to understand the process and how to “see” the different weaves. It was a confusing time for me but I persevered and after some time started having reasonable success. That has been what drives me to teach.
Also I love the interactions that come from a room of like minded individuals and seeing the satisfaction that comes from making a piece from start to finish. Passing on knowledge and skills is essential for crafts to continue and we really are arming ourselves with tools that can be used in other parts of our lives. Knowing how to use natural fibres opens up a whole new world of possibilities, reconnects us with nature and brings a deeper appreciation of everyday items. I enjoy seeing learners use their creativity and I always come away from a workshop with new ideas so I learn from my students and it has been that sort of learning that has really fuelled my creativity.
Finalist Changing Threads 2019
Garden Delight Kina Gallery New Plymouth 2021
Go Wild With Weaving Monza Gallery Takaka 2022
Go Wild With Weaving The Art Vault Takaka 2023
Guest Artist Wall to Wall Gallery 2023
You can see Tanya’s creations on her Instagram page @heartstonebaskets.