For our coiling module we had the theme ‘animal’. Not a theme I was ecstatic about! But then coiling was not a basketry skill I warmed to when I read it on the syllabus. Until I tried it and then green eggs and ham I love coiling I do! I have been addicted to it ever since the first session.
Why? It is immensely satisfying – the process of wrapping fibres – and appeals to my more experimental and materials based practice. This was an enormous module to undertake in just 4 weeks. For those of us that enjoyed it this was just the beginning; you can coil so many materials in so many different ways it is literally endless.
I began by gathering resources, collecting materials and objects that reflected the colour or textures of the animals I had in mind, fox, raven/crow, horse, goat and sheep. To start with I focussed on the fox and wanted to get some rusty metal or wire on the go but realised this would take a while as I need to ‘find’ the right pieces, I tried using some new wire which would then rust later but it wasn’t pliable enough, I need iron wire and could try that or use it on a much larger scale outdoors at some point. I visited the Handweavers studio in London where they sell strange things like balls of spun horse hair and goat hair, this is beautiful stuff and so I looked at the characteristics of those animals.
This became a small basket made of brush bristles and sisal with black hemp stitching, fragile but tough and slightly tamed but wild. The hunter and the hunted.
I wanted to reflect a sense of being nimble and light, and its markings down the face, goats are valuable as gritty survivors good at living on hostile ground eating anything enabling community’s survival in harsh environments so I wanted to reference their value and status using the horn. I want to form a horn from silver but for now it’s armature wire.
I found a horse shoe and made a hoof basket. I like the weight of the horse shoe and it is slightly rusty metal sheen and worked and worn look. Horses are immense, beautiful beasts and their feet are critical to everything they do whether its working or racing. Like human shoes I think horse shoes and hoofs carry a history.
I want to make work using particular breeds of sheep, looking a little into wool and fleece I discover it is a huge area of great variation which also carries a ton of history like baskets which is indigenous to the geography and even each animal too. So looking on my doorstep I have started with Romney sheep one of the oldest breeds in England producing a very versatile fleece good for clothing and furnishing, soft, strong and durable. This is also the start of a new project idea that I will develop over the next few months.
For my college project sheep basket I used a combination of Romney wool for the main basket and a Wendsleydale/Jacob cross.
All of my basket ideas work better for me when I consider them in relationship with another material, I want to use stone, slate, flint, chalk and metal to create a balance between the subject and its context.
I made a few experiments and loads of samples and my shed is chock full of materials!
And now I am making mats and beachcombing.
Next term its willow.