Based in Bangor, County Down, Bob Johnston has been creating traditional and contemporary baskets as well as three-dimensional sculptures and living structures since 2000.
After initially training as a textile weaver, Bob Johnston studied with master basket-makers in Armagh, Galway and France. He uses traditional basket-making techniques in a contemporary way, creating an appealing fusion of ancient techniques and forms that are pleasing to the modern eye.
Bob Johnston strives to produce aesthetically beautiful functional items using photographic archives and museum collections as his inspiration. The sculptures submitted for Crafting Excellence were inspired by the woven disguises worn as part of mummers’ plays. Bob Johnston grows his own organic willow and uses more than 30 different varieties in his work. He explains that willow is an extremely versatile material that can be woven into traditional, functional forms such as baskets and chairs, but which is just as suitable for creating decorative sculptures such as animal figures and heads. Using this natural material he explores the form and power of the creatures he depicts and creates a sense of movement with a hint of expression.
Bob has received a number of prestigious awards in the course of his career; he is a three-time winner of the Royal Dublin Society Rod, Rush and Straw Category and has also received an Arts Council General Arts Award and a Golden Fleece award as well as being awarded a QEST scholarship in 2004. His work has featured in more than 30 exhibitions since 2002 in a variety of countries from Ireland to the USA.
His work is permanently displayed in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and the Ulster American Folk Park and forms part of the collection of the Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC and The Royal Dublin Society. Bob is currently employed by the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum to interpret and demonstrate Irish Basket-making. This role affords him the luxury of researching, constructing and experimenting with traditional Irish baskets.