Just before the UK went into 'lockdown', we embarked on a new venture; the filming of our first online video tutorial explaining how to weave a basket from willow.
The idea was simple - produce the most comprehensive and easy to follow online willow basket weaving tutorial!
Over the past few years, we have run hundreds of willow weaving courses at our farm. (The current plan is to resume our course schedule in 2021.) Our range of courses is incredibly diverse. They usually include sculpture, living willow, hurdles, handbags, bowls, baskets and even coffins. We always use tutors who are not only experts in their field but enthusiastic and brilliant at imparting their knowledge.
The vast majority of the courses that we run are for a full day. For someone who lives outside Somerset the time spent travelling can be prohibitive. (That being said, we have enjoyed welcoming students from America and Canada.)
In order to spread our willow weaving expertise further afield, we felt the time was right to launch a new, online service. Now, we appreciate that there is a huge amount of free content on the web. However, the vast majority of it is poorly recorded and often difficult to understand. Many of the videos don't explain how to get the best from the willow or how to put things right!
We decided that our first tutorial would feature Rachel Hutton. She is a hugely experienced basket weaver and someone who has been successfully teaching here for years. We hired Neil Warren - a top video production and training expert - scrubbed up our course room, so what could possibly go wrong?
Battling the elements
The February filming day arrived and boy was it windy. The wind was gusting so hard the roof was shaking. There was a real danger that the dulcet tones of Rachel would be drowned out (and our workshop could be partially roofless!). Thankfully, the weather improved and we were up and running.
Value for money
11 hours later we felt confident that enough high quality footage was 'in the can'. When most people look at the finished tutorial they will have no idea how much time it took to shoot. This wasn’t down to Rachel needing numerous takes it, was simply the sheer amount of proper explanation needed to convey how to weave a beautiful willow basket.
To add to the complexity of the editing process, Neil had used 3 separate cameras to capture Rachel's weaving skills. That was 30+ hours of material to go through. (Neil informed us that he had never had to edit such a large amount of content from one shoot.)
Editing took weeks to complete, but it was well worth it. We ended up with just over 2 hours of brilliant content. We then decided to further improve the user experience by breaking the content down into chapters; making the base, inserting side stakes, the upsett, using a siding weave, weaving a border and finishing off. Rachel showed how to rectify mistakes and we thought we'd also include a free video tutorial on how to use the specialist basketry tools that Rachel used (and some cheaper alternatives). While we were at it, we also decided to include key timings for each of the individual chapters. The whole process took a huge amount of time, effort and patience.
We believe that the tutorial is very competitively priced. A full day course here can range in price from £80 to £100. The basket weaving tutorial is priced at £54.86 for a 30 day rental period (around US$ 69.50). You can watch the tutorial as many times as you like during the 30 day period.
We've also put together special willow and tool packs to accompany the video. The tutorial can also be gifted (the 30 day rental period doesn't begin until the person clicks on the link).
Everyone involved in this initial project has learned a great deal. The time and effort involved certainly hasn't put us off from filming another tutorial. It will be interesting to see how well this is received. Fingers and willow rods crossed.