An intriguing and unexpected result of working with Annemarie O’Sullivan on my last project, weaving a large scale outdoor sculpture which floated on a lake for 6 months (see Revolution and Resonance 2017 blog) is that I am now learning all manner of construction techniques which have been used over centuries and even millennia. I feel like a very small fish in a very large pond.
Over coming my own prejudice and discovering what a bad image basketry has had is shocking. I only had to look at objects in the British Museum to find that basketry, once a crucial skill which provided means of shelter, clothing, measuring, spiritual and ancestral knowledge, working and trade, also charts identity very closely as each individual place or basket was made of local plants and had a set purpose and this was ubiquitous around the world. After the discovery of new technologies and manufacturing materials that left basketry behind (though it is still the case that every basket made is done by hand) with cheaper mass production it has latterly gained a reputation in this country for its therapeutic mental health benefits. I grew up with big old blackened stone buildings in Yorkshire that had been used as mills and asylums, where patients more recently – often women – would be given weaving tasks to do as a way of occupational therapy, I haven’t researched this history yet but on the face of it, basketry, once a skill so integral to daily life on all levels has now been down graded to a hobby sold as kits in craft shops for children with the attitude you can learn what apprentices used to do for months in just a few minutes … well I am proving this not to be the case anyway – I can tell you it’s harder than it looks!
So my approach to basketry is one of delight and commitment to learning new skills. I have found an area in which allows me to learn construction tecniques that involve using continuous line without complicated machinery and jointing, one that uses materials that are from the landscape around us and one that allows a lot of experimentation and intuitive adjustment as a form is being made.
I want to use basketry in my work continuing my exploration of dependency and relationship.
So far I have learned some basic twining with rush and jute.