What is your background in creativity?

I have always been a very creative person. As a child, I was always drawing, painting and writing.

When my husband and I moved from Belgium to Ireland with our one-year-old son, we met a basket maker.

He showed me how to make my first basket and I watched him work, completely fascinated with the process.

We then renovated an old cottage, built a big vegetable garden and started growing willow so I could start weaving.

A willow basket handmade by Hanna Van Aelst.

I started small, making baskets for friends, then small local markets and on to shops eventually.

I also started teaching friends when asked and that also slowly grew to in-demand classes.

We started growing willow and now have enough for what I need for my own work and the classes I teach.

Can you explain your creative process?

My work very much moves between functional baskets and non-functional sculptural work.

I like the stricter, more defined way of working to a certain set of parameters for functional work and working out how to solve certain technical challenges.

Functional work teaches me to hone in and improve my skills that I then bring to my non-functional or sculptural work.

A colour infused handmade willow basket.

This is where I allow myself full freedom to create whatever happens. When I do this, I allow the willow to guide me and I easily get into a deep flow state of creativity.

I very rarely start with a set idea. I do have some general idea about size and maybe some idea about a shape I would like to explore. But, other then that, I allow the creative process to take over fully.

What inspires you?

I live very rurally, surrounded by forests, on a mountainside in Tipperary. Nature inspires me every day.

I love the constantly changing weather, being so up and close to the changing seasons and watching trees and plants grow and thrive throughout each season.

I see close similarities between the natural cycles in nature and my own creative cycles and creative energy.

How I go from rest periods to full-on creative sessions and back again makes me feel very much connected to the whole natural system on this planet and all other living beings.

What has been your biggest creative achievement to date?

When one of my sculptures was bought by the Office of Public Works and is hanging in a politician's office - that was really amazing.

Is there any advice you’d give to someone interested in pursuing an artistic career?

Stay your own course. There is no one way to be an artist. There is only your way. Your life and life needs are very different to the next person.

What you want to create and how you would like to do that will also vary from each individual artist. Be creative with building your own life as well as your work.

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