Friday 21 January 2011

Wood baskets

Since we've come here to live permanently we go on the odd jaunt to re-acquaint ourselves with places in the area we've visited  before-- we first started coming to this region in 1991--but haven't been to recently, or sometimes, eons ago.

On one of these last autumn--probably early October; we went back to Fontrevault. We'd been there quite a few times but the last visit had been long ago and it was interesting to see what had changed. More of that another time.

On leaving Fontrevault we ambled off to Azay le Rideau and over lunch there remembered that Villaines-les Rochers wasn't far away. We'd been talking about the installation of our woodburner and discussing how many 'stares' (1 stare = 1 cubic meter) of buches (logs) we were going to need. 

Villaines-les-Rochers is the center for 'vannerie' all things made out of willow; and we needed a log basket. They've been growing the willow for withies to make household wares in Villaines since the 7th century.

collection of willow work
Like many traditional crafts, vannerie was piece work and paid by the item. The craft was passed from father to son. This old black and white postcard on the left shows a great selection of vannerie. 

The craft fell into decline but in 1975 they formed the Societe Cooperative de Vannerie Villaines-les-Rochers which now trains people from all over France, offeres demonstrations of willow weaving and sells the handmade items.

quality label

In good French tradition the co-op is very proud of the quality of its merchandise and every object comes with a tag certifying that is genuine vannerie from Villaines-les-Rochers. All along the main street of Villaines there are street decorations attached to the sides of the houses in the shape of 2 dimensional baskets. Just like old fashioned shop signs promoting their wares.

We had a lovely root around the shop-- looking at the historical displays and comparing log baskets to log trugs before finally deciding on a log basket. It has seen good service with the snows and freezing weather in December. Last week it had a bit of time off as it was so mild but this week with the drop in temperatures it has been in very active service again.  
well used log basket



GaynorB said...

I'll add this place to my long list of 'must do' visits.
Unlike you, we know very little about the area. We have visited a few times as some friends of ours have retired to near Chatillion, so we look forward to exploring.

Niall & Antoinette said...

GaynorB: It would combine well with a visit to Azay le Rideau or Chinon or on the way back from St Nicholas de Bourgeuil if you were buying some wine. The items are not cheap as they are handmade. Hopefully our log basket will last a long time. There is a website which give more info and you can buy online.

Bob said...

At 20 Rue du Stade Charnizay ( 3 doors down from us) there is a basket maker we know him as Eric.

Niall & Antoinette said...

Bob: welcome! Nice to hear from a fellow Charnizeen. Thanks for the info--don't think you can ever have enough baskets :-) so will keep a note of the address.

Jean said...

We have made the trip to Villaines-les-Rochers a few times ourselves. It's a lovely run on the motorcycles.
The co-op has a fabulous display of basket wares and the village is interesting - I love all the little baskets that hang out over almost every door.
We looked at a troglodyte house there when we were looking for somewhere to buy. It was very cute but horribly damp so it went on our list of interesting rejects !!