Lichtenfels Korbmarkt 2004

In September last year I went to the 25th Korbmarkt ( basketmarket/fair) in Lichtenfels in Germany. (This event takes place on the 3rd w/e of September every year). The logistics of the trip was greatly assisted by the fact that one of the Ayrshire towns, Prestwick is twinned with Lichtenfels and having contacted the president of the town twinning Association for some travel advice I was instantly became part of the small contingent representing Prestwick at the celebrations.

Lichtenfels is the German Basket Town with both the School of Basketry which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and the Basketry Museum situated in the area. - Being just a small town, it was completely taken over by basketstalls and associated seating and performance areas. I was therefore glad to have arrived on the Friday morning to find my bearings before the the opening at 4pm.

As a special guest (coming from Prestwick) I was expected to be in the opening parade through the town with my Scottish basket (yes, you guessed: I'd brought my kishie!) and to join the dignitaries on the stage for speeches and the crowning of the basket queen. As my German was not up to political propaganda I had plenty of time to study the Queen's regalia: a small pill box shoulder basket in extremely fine skeined willow work and a similarly finely woven tiara. And there were baskets everywhere : the speakers podium was a basket, the signpost were ingeniuosly tied bundles of willow with wooden signs slotted into them etc..

By now the town was packed: approximately 70 exhibitors had set up their stalls ranging from imported mass produced work to locally made high quality traditional work and for the first time an area around the church was given over to contemporary/experimental work.

I spent the next couple of days going from one stall to the next and speaking with many makers who were often 2nd, 3rd or even 7th generation basketmakers working in family firms growing and stripping their own willow. Their work was mainly in stripped willow and included stake and strand, coiled work and frame baskets as well as chairseating to a very high standard.

In contrast the progressive work at the church was all in the beautiful natural colours of brown willow in all shapes and sizes. This was also where the majority of the foreign makers were eg from France , Holland and Catalonia - a good networking opportunity for all. The makers from Lithuania who were there for the 10th time, however were in one of the side streets as their work was considered traditional although quite different from what we are familiar with.

The town square also had some very innovative work: new furniture design in cane, outdoor furniture and carports in thick stripped and bent willow covered with some kind of polymer to make it waterproof and interior design objects such as lamps, mirror frames etc .The latter was an attempt by one of the school teachers and others to create new products and more work which I hope will bear fruit although it may be along time before the new work will appeal to the regular punters at the Korbmarkt.

During one of the official town-twinning events I was introduced to the director of the Basketry School and was able to present him/the school with the kishie and the video. Cutting a long story short that meeting led to a tour of the school (where i could have spent all day in the store rooms alone) and the invite to all of you to come to Lichtenfels and learn Feinflechterei - a unique timeconsuming technique weaving stake and strand with fine willow skeins over a mold (see elsewhere in newsletter).