Woven Thresholds is a collaborative project that applies the ancient craft of willow basketry to the weaving of what we're calling "threshold vessels" — that is, coffins, cradles, and willow baskets. All of the weaving materials are gathered from uncultivated lands or gathered from willow patches with varieties grown for weaving. This project brings communities into an intimate relationship with life, death, and beauty while also creating a collective, small-scale weaving practice that contributes to a solidarity economy where purpose outweighs profit. Following an apprenticeship with established Irish coffin weaver, Woven Thresholds was born from the desire to build a culture of reciprocity with the Earth, crafting humans into a closer relationship with the integral cycles of birth and death.
There exists a massive industry producing commodities around such human experiences as birth and death. Corporate greed leaves families with the burden of unaffordable vessels that also poison the earth, or an endless supply of baby-junk that's mass-produced, devoid of story, and reliant upon exploitative labor across the globe. Woven Thresholds is a response to the inert, extractive, and sterile over-culture, re-imagining instead a collaborative, healing pathway for some of our choices around birth and death.
Woven Thresholds is collaborative on several levels: working with the land where the willows are grown and harvested for weaving; creating a network of craftspeople and artists, midwives and doulas of both birth and death, home and natural burial advocates, conservation burial alliances, and of course the communities that experience threshold from the inside out. A small seed to plant with with the long vision for any community is that birth and death are returned to the hearts and hands of the people who experience them and the more immediate outcome of sharing the ancestral craft of weaving as a vessel for all life.
How will the kickstarter funds support Woven Thresholds?!
Funds raised through this kickstarter will support the continuation of a small-scale weaving practice through the weaving of the baskets for backers as well as the weaving of one coffin and one cradle, both of which will be donated !
The cradle will be donated to Roots of Labor Birth Collective and the coffin to the White Eagle Memorial Preserve.
The dream for this project is that these woven vessels, the coffins, cradles, and baskets, become doorways for dialogue and connection around how we as human beings can re-imagine our relationship to birth and death.
In sitting with how to dance with capitalism and how to offer these vessels to the world, I turned to the crowd-funding platform as a way to call on the abundance that exists in our communities to not only support the continued practice of willow basket weaving, but also illuminate ways that the basket is a tangible vessel of story and connection for communities and individuals and the earth in threshold times.
Below you will find images of more of the rewards for backers, which include the coffins and cradles. You will also find links to the Conservation Burial communities I have been in contact with and more information on the Roots of Labor Birth Collective, their work, some podcasts, and how you can further support them.
Willow Cradles and supporting radical birth work !
The willow cradles are full of story, creating a vessel full of the story of the stars and storms, woven for a life coming in. How are we shaped by what surrounds us? The smell and texture of the willow, the way a baby's gaze dances across the weave. Being held in the beautiful tension of the basket, sleeping, growing. The cradles are created from the earth, the hands, and into the hearts and homes of the ones weaving this new life into the world.
The cradle funded from this project will be donated to Roots of Labor Birth Collective out of Oakland California. The Roots of Labor Birth Collective consists of birth doulas of color committed to providing support and care for birthing members of their community, decolonizing birth, honoring birth, empowering themselves and each other, and sustaining doula work. You can learn more about the collective and how to further support their work here: Roots of Labor Birth Collective.
Also, check out these podcasts to learn more:
Birth Bruja podcast did a 3 part series on RLBC:
For the Wild podcast:
Willow and Wood Coffins
The willow coffins are like boats, vessels of story and resilience, protection and beauty. Weaving is an ancient work of the hands, and the weaving of willow coffins a threshold work that I feel was left on the shores of my ancestors. How do these vessels want to live in these times? How can these woven coffins be vessels of healing and stitch us and our communities into relationship with our dying, our death, and the rhythms and cycles of the earth? The willow, grown and gathered from cultivated or wild patches, the wood from coastal driftwood or hand-rived and planed boards from a forest that was suddenly cleared - the transformation of wood into bases and spine for the coffins creating a final resting place for these tree beings.
One coffin will be donated to White Eagle Memorial Preserve in Washington. White Eagle Memorial Preserve as well as Larkspur Conservation are part of a growing alliance of conservation burial lands around the country.
" Conservation burial is a growing movement to steward and protect wilderness and other lands threatened by development. By offering natural burials in a way that preserves and even restores ecosystems via land stewardship practices, conservation burial provides revenue and access to nature. Conservation Burial Grounds - there are 9 certified in the US currently - are at least 5 acres, and exist either as land stewardship organizations themselves, or in conjunction with a land trust and conservation easement to steward land restoration efforts, and to maintain a commitment to preserving intact wildnerness ecosystems. Conservation burial sites are dug by hand to a depth of 3-4 feet, where the microbial activity is the soil is active, and biodegradable materials are used for the burial garments. Often families are directly involved in the closing of the grave, and grave mounds are created which will subside naturally over time, as the bodies within recompose into earth. " Jodie Buller, White Eagle Memorial Preserve, Ekone Ranch
The other person you saw in some of the video with with coffins is Brendan Farren, a teacher of mine, and someone I worked close with this time last year to learn weaving the willow and wood into a coffin. I admire Brendan greatly. You can find more about Brendan, his work, and his amazing online courses and offerings here:
A bit about Mo:
Woven Thresholds is the vision of interdisciplinary artist Maureen Walrath. Maureen is a weaver, farmer, visual artist, and student midwife. She learned to weave willow baskets in the Coast Range of Oregon, connecting her craft with the life of plants; learning about the willows, their growing patterns, harvesting and curing the plant for weaving and teaching others to weave. Her weaving brought her to her ancestral lands of Ireland where she studied coffin weaving on the North Atlantic Coast of the island.
Thank you for all of your support! This has been an amazing experience just putting this project together. With much gratitude and bells ringing from the tips of my wings,
Risks and challenges
My dream is that Woven Thresholds is received in such a way that there are many baskets to weave in the coming year! Related to this is the potential risk or challenge I see connected to the wellness and capability of my body, especially my wrists and hands. Weaving willow, especially the larger willow, requires a lot of strength. This is where the willow keeps the time, easing into the process and creating a work/rest rhythm is crucial. I will communicate with all you lovely backers throughout the process, inviting you into the process, and sharing that willow weaving rhythm as these vessels are created. All an opportunity for growth and learning.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)