Joe Hogan is a master basket weaver, who lives on the shore of Loch Fooey in Leenane, Connemara. (Hogan features in our survey of the Irish craft scene in the Journey issue)...
Joe Hogan is legendary among the community of makers the length and breadth of Ireland. In the 1970s he arrived with his wife, Delores, on the shore of Loch Fooey in Leenane in Connemara, a place as remote as it is magical, and set about teaching himself basket weaving while planting a forest of willows. With a reputation for being wise and eloquent that precedes him, one hangs on his every word on the basket-making courses he runs with his son, Ciaran. From his workshop, warmed by a turf fire, he still makes functional baskets to order yet dedicates more and more time to artistic baskets, which have been displayed in galleries internationally, with a waiting list of clients. Weaving a ‘skib’ – a basket traditional to the west of Ireland – in colours that seem almost unearthly (but occur naturally around this part of the world), the dexterity of his craftsmanship is mesmeric. ‘When I came to live here I was able to make baskets, but I didn’t know much about traditional ones,’ he says, ‘and the only person in the 1970s left in Ireland making baskets in this way happened to be my neighbour. Tommy came down and showed me his donkey creel – and as he was the last person left in the country to make these, it was really touch and go for a while.’ Now, with at least half of the students on his courses coming from abroad, Joe’s reputation as Ireland’s master basket weaver ensures the legacy of his craft.
Photographs Brian Doherty