The surfaces to be coated must first be sanded or planed, so that the product adheres well to the base, and the bindings and ties must be firmly glued in place. Coating is carried out either manually or using a high-pressure spray-gun. Basket willow switches are harvested in autumn and winter, when the plants have shed their leaves. Harvested switches are traditionally stored in pools of water until they start to put out shoots in the spring; then the bark is stripped by hand with knives.
There are many obstacles to the development of basket willow production and the expansion of small-scale industries for manufacturing basket willow products — not only the lack of technical and scientific expertise, but also the lack of proper organization and the management problems of the Chimbarongo artisanal sector. It was popularly held that the basket willow grown in Chimbarongo belonged to various species, which explained differences in the quality of the raw material.
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Thus people spoke about yellow or good basket willow and green or bad basket willow. However, electrophoresis and molecular analysis of material collected from different crops and sites showed that all the basket willow grown in Chimbarongo belonged to the same species Salix viminalis , indeed the same clone, which had been widely propagated in the area because of its ease of vegetative propagation. The difference in quality was explained by characteristics of the site such as soil fertility, irrigation and drainage.
The artisans — and the general population — held that basket willow could be grown only in Chimbarongo, and also that the best species for use in manufacturing products was the one that grew there Salix viminalis. Eight trials set up in the north, centre and south of the country using various species of Salix showed that basket willow can be grown in other parts of the country besides Chimbarongo as long as appropriate sites are chosen — i. However, Chimbarongo did indeed prove to be the best zone for growing basket willow and also certain other species of willow as shown by higher harvest yields, measured in dry tonnes per hectare.
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The Chimbarongo artisans shared an ingrained belief that it takes many years to train an artisan and that only men have the necessary skill and dexterity to learn the craft. This belief was preventing the involvement of women and the extension of skills to other parts of the country. The strong hold of this myth among the Chimbarongo artisans governed their working conditions, as well as prices, delivery times, working hours and types of product, thus preventing the implementation of projects put forward by businesses that were attracted by the unique qualities of basket willow and came to settle in Chimbarongo.
Transfer of skills was needed to stimulate competition and to generate new opportunities for rural populations in other places where basket willow cultivation had proved successful. The project therefore sponsored courses in the rural areas where basket willow trials had been set up, and about people from those areas were trained in basket willow manufacturing techniques. The learning period turned out to be short two or three months ; people obtained further experience on the job and were thus able to improve the quality of their output.
The results showed that women had considerable capacity for working in basket willow, an activity that is also viewed positively because it allows them to generate income while still caring for their home and children. In due course female artisans formed organized groups, for whom workshops on the production and marketing of their output were then held with the support of the local government. In the late s, as a result of the stagnation of the basket willow sector in Chimbarongo, products — mainly basketwork — were being sold on the domestic market at very low prices, leading to a belief that basket willow was little appreciated in the country.
Other rooms, such as the bedroom and kitchen, contained tables, shelves, trunks and smaller items such as hampers and trays of basket willow. However, consumers were dissatisfied with quality, uninspiring designs and substandard finishing.
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At the same time, market surveys carried out in Europe and Central America revealed considerable interest in Chilean basket willow products, especially furniture. However, if the demand was to be met, the quality needed to be improved and quantities needed to be increased to balance the high transport costs.
These findings indicated the need to attract investments and to develop production in such a way as to combine artisanal work with the tools of business management.
As a result of these findings, the project initiated work to improve the manufacturing processes used for basket willow products, particularly furniture. It promoted the use of screws instead of the traditional nails, as well as the use of iron in the structure and the improvement of joints, assembly and finishing. The development of new designs was also promoted. Courses and technical assistance were provided regarding quality control.
A technological tour was organized for a group of artisans, giving them an opportunity to visit rattan furniture production centres in Asia and major showrooms and trade fairs in Europe and Central America, so that they could see for themselves the production systems adopted, the quality of the products, and current fashions and trends. The designs were later shown at the first basket-willow furniture fair. TABLE 1. Required dimensions of basket willow switches according to Standard Varilla switch. Keep abreast of significant corporate, financial and political developments around the world.
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