From his workshop overlooking Loch na Fooey, Hogan has been creating both functional and artistic baskets since the 1970’s. The premise for Joe was simple, find a craft to combine with small scale farming that would allow him and his wife Dolores to live self-sufficiently in the country. Basket making seemed an obvious choice because of the ease of which he could grow willow and Connemara was the desired location. With this goal in mind, they moved to Mallow in Co. Cork to allow Joe to undertake training in the art of making baskets. A promised apprenticeship ended in disappointment when it transpired that the man offering the training was not able to make baskets. Undeterred, Joe became acquainted with the Quinlan brothers in Co. Waterford who although did not offer training, welcomed Joe into their studio to observe their process. “I would just sit in their workshop and bit by bit got a feeling for what was involved; they demystified the process and were very supportive”. When Joe returned to Connemara after his time with the Quinlan brothers, they provided him with his very first cuttings of their willow to begin harvesting his own crop. He describes the process of harvesting willow as a simple one, “you just need clean, fertile ground where you plant your willow cuttings in rows much like you would grow vegetables” and admits that “growing willow has greatly enhanced the enjoyment of the process of making”.
Having began his career making functional baskets, Joe now only makes artistic or “non-functional” baskets, describing this making process as much slower and with more uncertainty, “each basket is unique and requires you to respond to different circumstances in their creation”. The baskets are generally made upside down, a much slower process that is modelled on the idea behind the traditional Irish basket known as the donkey creel. Artistic baskets also generally contain a lot less willow and are often a combination of various natural elements, such as wood which Joe began to incorporate into his work from 2001 onwards. On one of his regular walks in the Connemara countryside, Joe discovered some bog pine, a wood that has been exposed after turf cutting and decided to bring it home. At the time, he didn’t immediately think he would incorporate it into his baskets, he was merely interested in the wood as an element in its own right but “as time went on and making baskets is what I know, so it came to be”.