Willow Baskets and Pottery. Those are the two main features at the Rosehill Farm in Roseville where Howard Peller and Maddy Fraioli ignite their creative flames.
Howard enjoys working with things of nature. “I value homemade objects created from materials that are closely related to the natural environment from which they are grown.” That’s the main reason he surrounds himself with a willow grove on his farm in Roseville.
His goal is to use the willows he grows to make useful and practical products that people can use every day. You’ll be surprised at the things that can be woven from the willow reeds.
From his willow grove, he wants visitors to see the connection between the willow farmer and the artisan who creates finely crafted baskets as well as live willow structures. He appreciates the value of simple hard work.
Howard is no stranger to the creative process as has designed artisan made tabletops, home decor, and personal accessory products. He co-founded a national ceramic tableware company Fioriware Pottery with his partner, Maddy Fraioli. As Longaberger VP, he founded their Design Center to develop new concepts in weaving.
During his time in Europe, Howard studied with master weavers and learned how to weave with willows. In Lichtenfels, Germany, he attended a basket school where he developed an appreciation of the natural properties of the traditional willow basket.
He spent time in Haiti and Jamaica where he could easily walk out of the village and gather bamboo. Eventually, he put all these ideas together and came up with his own techniques.
On his 140-acre farm, he has a willow grove of 5000 willow plants in 100 different varieties. He enjoys watching them develop with their beautiful colors, texture, tensile strength, smell and their magical property of intensive growth.
The amazing willow plant has qualities you wouldn’t expect. It’s a medical source for salicin, which was used before aspirin. Therefore, the bark of the willow can be used to make tea, which is good for headaches, fevers, arthritis, and even a great mouthwash.
Each year the plants are cut at the proper season near their base so they can regenerate. Then the willow reeds are dried for two years downstairs in the barn. Bundles of willows are sent around the world for baskets and furniture. The sturdy willow was even used for building ancient boats.
Home gardeners will find many uses for the willow reed. This living plant can be erected for backdrops, walkthroughs, around gazebos and even made into furniture. One interesting quality is that it can be trimmed, morphed and enjoyed for multiple seasons.
Howard gives workshops at the farm or they can be arranged for your organization so you can learn to put these ideas to practical use at your home or business.
The possibilities for their use seem endless. Howard creates beautiful baskets, handbags, bird feeders, and even room dividers. He has also created natural playgrounds using the willow for tunnels, domes, and walkways.
Styles of the baskets alone are amazing and too numerous to list them all. Some that caught my eye were: large shoulder bags, bread baskets, deep bowl baskets and fruit baskets.
His basketmaking creates a relationship between the field crop and the hands of the maker, who transforms the willow reeds into products to be used in the home or to collect and transport objects. Or they might just be used to create beauty and happiness in everyday life.
Rosehill Farm takes you back to a time when everything was natural. Stroll down their trails to see the beauty of the willows, their gardens and flowers, and enjoy being in touch with nature.
They will be having an Open House this fall where you can enjoy all this beauty. Check out their website at www.basketfarmer.com for further information.
Howard and Maddy bring new possibilities into people’s lives with their willow and pottery creations as they honor the Appalachian history of the region.
The Basket Farmer can be found at 7680 Rose Hill Road, Roseville, Ohio, From I-77, take exit 141. Then there are several turns, so hopefully you have a GPS system to guide you over the back roads to the willow farm. It’s worth the country drive.