One evening last week I attended a Catalan platter willow weaving workshop at Signal Arts Centre, offered by expert basket maker Aoife Patterson. The sheafs of many-hued willow wands smelled great in the large gallery where we'd be working. After a brief explanation and demonstration, those attending dived right in to the making, as Aoife then made her way around the room individually helping everyone out (a small group). Making the Catalan platter is very much associated with a full body experience! To begin with, you must use your torso to help form a circle or oval upon which all the weaving takes place, determining the general shape of your platter. Two wands are used for this base, and as you can see in the picture below, the wands are slightly heavier than the weaving wands.
Again your own body is crucial to making the platter. Central rods are held in place by a temporary weave of lightweight willow and then the actual weaving begins. I chose rods of a light brownish-red hue to be alternated with green rods that will turn almost black with time. Kneeling on one half of my frame, I wove the rods to almost the top of the frame. I then turned it around to begin the process again, making sure to remove the temporary weaves first.
Nearly finishing the platter, the middle rods are brought together. A very flexible, thinner piece of willow is manoevred into the platter, brought up one side and wrapped a few times around what is now the handle, and tucked into itself.
My platter has both a long and a short handle, but the tying together process is the same.
The final finish to the platter is the trimming with sharp secaturs. This can either be done by eye or using chalk to make cut lines, but the amount cut totally depends on preference.
The Catalan platter can be used as a serving dish. either by placing a smaller plate upon it or by putting items, such as bread or whole fruit, directly on the willow weave, which is very strong.
A slight curve in the platter is natural to the process and differentiates the top from the bottom of the platter, but this curve can also be more pronounced by gentle upward movements in the early stages (when one is kneeling on the platter).