The Basketry Cooperative of Villaines numbers among 50 basket workers, 25 wicker producers and workers who cultivate their wicker beds, then ensuring the control of quality and the supplying of raw materials; last, 25 basket workers are engaged and work in the workshops put at their disposal.
A board of directors, with 9 members, forms the decision and orientation centre of the cooperative. Mr David ETIENNE is the actual president.
The management is in charge of applying the policy defined by the board of directors, and of the whole administrative and commercial organization. Mr Daniel MARTIN acts as the manager.
Mr MARTIN is in charge of the production organization, assisted by the workshop responsible.
Mr Laurent CHAUMIN, collaborating with Mrs Yannick ALPHONSE, is the Sales Manager.
Mrs Sylvie POMPON is in charge of accountancy.
The Deputy Manager is also responsible for the Logistic services , that is to say the finishing touches, packaging, receipts ans sendings of goods. He is helped in his work by Mr Daniel BUREAU and Mr Philippe POPULU.
The staff versability ensures a service of quality to the customers and to all people taking part in the company.
The company also has an After-sales service to repair the baskets handles, to restore cradles or furniture, or to change the canvas of bread basket.
The Wicker is a variety of willow cultivated and harvested every year. More than 200 varieties of willows grow on the French ground, but only about ten among them are used for basketry. The Wicker likes grounds situated close to waterways. In Indre-et-Loire, some thirty hectares are dedicated to its cultivation, on the edge of the Loire and Indre rivers, and in the Villaines-les-Rochers valley. A basket worker needs about 50 to 60 ares of wicker beds to produce the necessary raw materials for his annual basketry making.
It also can be tinted or painted with gloss after the objects are made.
Wicker can be shaped complete (this is round wicker), or splitted in three quarters and put under a blade to make it thinner and remove the medulla. Then they become the pieces of split wood used for the light basketries, the fastenings and the trimmings. For the elements dedicated to the baskets reinforcements, the bottoms, the corners, the handles... we select varieties fastly developping that we only cut every 2 or 3 years. The wicker must be cultivated on muddy grounds of valleys close to rivers and brooks, and requires a mild and damp climate. Wicker is cut after the first winter frosts. Baled, picked over, graded, it is then put in a basin to generate new sap in spring time. It is only skinned during May and June when the sap is rising.
The white wicker then obtained can be stored for several years until it is used.
The grounds are favourable as the cave dwellings are with their isothermal quality, allowing the basket workers to work under cover.
Each year, during May , the basket workers skin the wicker (this time is really important for the basket work) . That is the reason why the Cooperative organises The skinning feast on the 3rd week-end in May. You will be able to see the different methods of skinning, the baket workers, and on the evening, walk along the Marché Gourmand organized in the village.
Having for a long time equiped agriculture and industry, the Cooperative production is now mainly specialized in bakery, the fixtures of large-scale distribution stores, catering and decoration. The Cooperative main commercial process is based on professionnal trade fairs, the most important being Europain (Paris), the Shira (Lyon), IBA (München), completed with traditional catalogues and internet resuming:
Our displaying store at Villaines has a great tourist appeal locally. Here we have a turnover of more than 10%. Our export sales reach 15% of our sales figures with the professionals. The Basketry Cooperative of Villaines makes more than half of the French basketry production, which is really competed with import. Guided tours for groups (15 Persons minimum) from monday to friday are also organized. Cost of 2.60 euro per person; 2.00 euro per person for the schools.