FROM SALLY ROD TO BASKET
with Joe and Ciarán Hogan
Joe Hogan has worked as a basket-maker since 1978. Ciarán Hogan, his son, also continues to work in the family tradition. As we look to the practical virtues of Ireland’s traditional crafts, we cannot but admire the beauty and simplicity of a handmade Irish basket. All the materials required for the creation of a basket can be grown in Ireland. Here is a truly sustainable Irish craft, it speaks of a rare harmony and a joy of working with nature.
When Yeats wrote about being “Down by the Sally gardens” he was referring to the gardens or small fields where willows for basket making are grown. Traditionally each small holding in the west of Ireland had a willow bed or sally garden where willows or sallies (as they are known in Ireland) grew. These were harvested each winter and once seasoned were woven into baskets to be used around the house and farm. The potato skib was one of the most popular traditional baskets and this was used for straining and then serving potatoes. After use, it was hung on the wall to dry and so became a popular decorative item. The skib is one of the many baskets made by Ciaran Hogan who works form the Ceardlann or Craft village in Spiddal, 10 miles west of Galway
city on the coast road. Ciaran has been making baskets there since 2010, having learnt his craft form his father Joe, who has worked as a basket-maker for 40 years. Joe Hogan also wrote “Basketmaking in Ireland”, the definitive book about Irish indigenous baskets.
Ciaran and Joe grow several varieties of basket-making willow in a very beautiful area of north Connemara near Lough Na Fooey in a wide range of natural colours. These coloured willows are then integrated into the designs of the baskets. The range of baskets available from Ciaran Hogan includes log or turf baskets, market baskets, skibs, bread baskets, platters, St Brigid’s crosses and even baby rattles. His father Joe now devotes most of his time to making artistic baskets.
After harvesting, rods have to be air dried for several weeks before being then stored indoors. In their dry state they are brittle, so they have to be soaked in water for about a week to allow them to become pliable to weave into baskets. Although it is not generally realised, all baskets including the very cheap imported ones are made by hand. No one has succeeded in mechanizing the process. The Hogans believe that making to a high quality is very important; they feel
it is the best way to distinguish their work from poorly made imported baskets.
In his 40 years as a basketmaker, Joe Hogan has developed an intimate understanding of his materials. Since 2000, Joe has applied his skills to the creation
of unique works of art, working intuitively and incor- porating other natural materials such as wood, catkins and bog oak. To depart from the tradition, however, one must rst grasp the fundamental principals and skills involved.
Ciarán Hogan is available to visit at his studio in Spiddle. Current opening hours are 10 to 5.30 Tuesday to Saturday, 12 to 5.30 on Sunday and closed Monday. Basket making courses are also available for those that would like to give it a go. If you plan to visit Ciarán it is advisable to call him rst on 0871516062.
‘I get great satisfaction of having something solid that I have made at the end of a day’s work, I also really enjoy passing on the skill through my basket making classes. I am happy also to be following in my Dad’s footsteps.’ Ciarán Hogan
“For me nature is an endless source of inspiration. We are fortunate to live in a wonderful landscape. There are mountains, lakes, rivers on our doorstep and areas of wild moorland nearby to delight the eye and nourish the soul.”