A couple weeks ago I finally got to do something that I’ve been wanting to do ever since I moved here… take one of the workshops at the Bluff Arts Festival! I’ve been interested in taking one of the workshops for years now, but just never made it down there for one reason or another. This year my Dad decided to come visit in mid-October, and when I realized that his visit would coincide with the Bluff Arts Festival, I looked on their website to see if they still had openings in any of the workshops that I thought he might be interested in. When I saw the Willow Weaving workshop I knew that he’d want to do it, and sure enough, when I told him about it he said to sign him up!
The workshops vary from year to year. In addition to Willow Weaving, some of the workshops offered this year included; Cooking Native Foods, Hand Built Clay, Native Drumming, Rock Art Drawing Workshop, Drawing with Acrylics, Plein Air Painting, Hike to the Wolfman Rock Art Panel, and many others. They also have evening events including; storytelling, a film festival, and a Gala at the Community Center with the Desert Mountain Dancers and Tab Murphy- an Academy Award nominated screenwriter. By the time I signed us up, many of the workshops were already full, but luckily the one I wanted the most- Willow Weaving- still had a couple spots open, however it DID fill up completely by the day of the workshop.
The workshop was held at Rusticks Gallery which is the home of Kyle Bauman who is also known as the ‘Willow Weaver’. If you live in the area (and you pay attention to these kinds of things!) you’re probably familiar with his work. There are many businesses and homes in Bluff that have his decorative panels in their gardens & yards, and in the festival brochure it says that his work can be found in 30 states and Canada, so it looks like it extends far beyond this area!
The workshop began with Kyle introducing himself and showing us an example of what we’d be making. He had already constructed the frames for us, so he just showed us the first step and where the materials were, and turned us loose. There were 3 different types of wood available for us to use; willow, tamarisk, and cottonwood saplings, plus you could strip them to make a lighter color if you wanted, so although we were following a fairly set pattern, there was a lot of variation on how everyone’s panels looked when we were finished.
Everyone spread out and found a spot to work- about half the group used the tables inside, and the other half of us opted to work outside. My dad and I set up along the fence and got to work- I have to say it was a little harder than I thought it would be! The frames were pretty stiff, so as you got more and more pieces in place, it got pretty hard to weave new pieces in. But it was definitely a really fun and relaxing way to spend a beautiful fall morning in Bluff!
Since everyone was so spread out and at different places with their panels, Kyle would just go around and when he could see that people were ready for the next step, he’d show them what to do next. It seemed to work well, and three hours later my dad and I had our finished projects! Well, mostly finished anyway. Our ‘homework’ assignment was to find or create something to put in the center of our panels. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m thinking I might make a little mosaic for mine and use all the broken Japanese dishes I have that I can’t bear to throw away!
I’m so glad I finally made it down to take part in the Bluff Arts Festival this year. I’ll definitely be signing up for another workshop next year, the only problem will be trying to rule it down to just one!
Distance from Bluff to lodging in San Juan County, Utah:
- Bluff: 0 miles/0 km
- Mexican Hat: 26 miles/42 km
- Blanding: 26 miles/ 42 km
- Monticello: 48 miles/77 km
- Monument Valley: 51 miles/82 km
- La Sal: 90 miles/ 145 km
For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386
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