Tag Archives: basketry

Map weaving III

I am currently feeling oddly optimistic about my final show plan. Perhaps because I have I think at last found a coherent way to bring my ideas into a manifest piece.

My plan is to show three pieces and some accompanying words in some form (book/essay perhaps). At the moment I have the ‘making plans’ for the first two pieces underway. The third piece is still undecided – I have two different ideas which I may need to do some tests on first before picking one. The accompanying book is a whole other ballgame…this is going to need some thought, but is at least a nice way to break up the stress of making so much yarn on my fingers!

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Storytelling with colour

After my last post, I had a nice chat with the lovely Bridget and tested my provisional show plan with her. Her reaction was good (apparently my ideas have much more me-ness in it). She noted the ethereality apparent within both the paper weaving samples and my latest calligraphic poems. [I don’t think I have talked about these on the blog yet – so as a quick summary, I have started looking at my ‘place identity’ using my asemic, consciousness poetry – calligraphy on top of monoprinting]

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So after meeting with Bridget, I’ve been making more weaving samples, experimenting with different ways of mark-making using the weave. I’d like to incorporate my story physically into the weave (as opposed as to just writing on top of it).

The latest samples:

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I love the effects with the colour pieces, and am less convinced by literally weaving in the words. Not sure this looks great and it is just too……well, too readable perhaps? I tried different warp dyeing experiment following on from this, which turned into a horrible mess. I then decided to follow this with baking a batch of chocolate muffins (after giving away 16 cakes yesterday), only for this to result in a horrible mess too and end up in the kitchen bin. Urg.

Some days go like this I suppose!

Something different then, and instead of making, I’m thinking about form instead. What object am I creating with all of these weaves? Something wistful and ethereal with fragments of words and poetry drifting into and out of focus at certain points? Oooh, I like the sound of that [blogging is a great way to empty the mind, instead of just talking to yourself]. I have been wondering about the forms I made in Unit 1 – looking back to pieces such as desire line from last September. Can I do basketry with pieces of weaving, would this be some sort of meta-weave?  This is conceptually very attractive.

Initial 3-fold and 5-fold paper maquettes and a quick material test with the samples I’ve got so far. I think I may need to find a form that is a little more open.

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Locality in material & process: take kogei

In looking more into my core essay idea of ‘locality as material & process’ I have been investigating weaving techniques and materials which are completely rooted within their local cultures and history. This has brought me to the beautiful art of Japanese Bamboo Basketry. Fundamentally, I think it is the simplicity of material and elegance of form which attracts me to this most of all – and I would like to take some of my inspiration into my wheat weaving work.

This history of bamboo basketry as a craft (as as a modern fine art discipline) isn’t as well known worldwide as some of the other specifically Japanese craft traditions. Bamboo is native to Japan (as well as China, South Asia and parts of Africa and South America) and there are apparently 600 different varieties in Japan – 40% of which are to be found on Kyushu. It is incredibly fast-growing and and although very resilient, can be split into very fine strips along the vertical length of the bamboo. As with willow basketry in England, the origins of the craft were in utilitarian containers made and used locally. Baskets dating back to the 700’s have been used to hold flowers scattered during Buddhist ceremonies. From the late 1600s to the early 1900s, bamboo baskets expressing a “uniquely Japanese aesthetic” were made by high-level bamboo artists as flower baskets for the sencha tea ceremony.

In the 1950’s and 60’s bamboo artists began exploring more sculptural and non-functional means of artistic expression using bamboo as their material. This opened the doors to a wave of contemporary bamboo basketry and a new fine art tradition within Japan. There is a strong heritage of artistic lineages (passing from father to son and so on) in bamboo art, and a range of amazing work which coves everything from Meiji, modern and contemporary functional baskets and art pieces. I can do this range no justice in summary – so see the book refs below if you want to know more. However, I have picked out a few artists whose work I find really inspirational for my own practice.

Honma Kazuaki 

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Breath, 1968

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Torii Ippo

7. Flight Torii Ippô (Japanese, born in 1930) 2003 Japanese timber bamboo (madake) and rattan * Mary Ann and Stanley Snider Collection Reproduced with permission. * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Flight, 2003 (Photo from Museum for Fine Arts, Boston)

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Ueno Maseo

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Synchronizing ripple, 2015
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Honda Shoryu 
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Galaxy (Seiun), 2001

In summary, what I like most in all of these works is:

  • the strong sense of continuous lines
  • simplicity of material – often only bamboo, or bamboo with rattan for knotting and tying.
  • it is clear to see the inherent nature of the weaving material explicitly within the structure itself
  • there is a balance of energy and freedom with the tight control of the weaving process – many layers of entropy co-existing
  • these baskets couldn’t be made of anything else – they exist because of the material they are made from

Weaving the world

Markku Kosonen:

The important aspect of my work is the ability to express things; craftsmanship alone is not enough. The purpose of a work such as this is to appeal to one’s emotions. For me, arts and crafts entail a spiritual processing of material, linking humanism to objects… The heritage of willow objects is a continuum in which I represent the contemporary aspect. It is no longer of any significance to make traditional utility objects of willow to that same extent as in the past…. A new function is to be found in the symbols of the object, the tales and messages which the maker leaves of his personality. This is known as expression.


from
 Weaving the World: Contemporary Art of Linear Construction, Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, Japan 1999.

Corn dolly braiding with willow

I’ve been testing out the method for properly preparing my dried white willow and seeing how well I can manipulate it – initially using the same pattern as I did for the last ‘desire line’ experiment. It has taken a few attempts to test the soaking and mellowing times, and I’m still not able to get the simple weaves done without some stems breaking. Not sure what (whether my skills or the dryness of the wood) is causing this yet. It is also really hard to get the new weavers in neatly unlike the invisible joining you can achieve with straw.

Some pics of the latest tests are below – you can see clearly where some of the weavers have snapped mid-bend.

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My initial reaction is mixed: firstly, I really like working with the willow. There is something mysterious and elegant about it as a wood which I really enjoy. However, with the spiral braiding, I am really not sure what this offers that the wheat straw doesn’t already. I wonder if doing a modern corn dolly plait works better for me with the corn itself. This said, I will continue to try some different forms using the willow. Perhaps something more suited to it as a material. Also, I have a whole bundle of steamed willow as well, so that’s something else to have a look at too.

This all brings me back to my current ‘challenge’ which is to try to understand other sources of inspiration for forms. I did try something based on a new idea which has been floating about my head, that of interlocking identities through interlocking repeated forms. This was an initial 3d sketch (for lack of a better description). Is there something to work with here?

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Stripping the willow

I have been looking into the work of contemporary basket weavers, initially to see what people do with willow as a material, and see who resonates with me – both as inspiration and also as new references for my project proposal. I have also been keeping an eye on how these artists create their form – what inspires them, how do they decide on the form? I think now that I have begun to understand the ideas of materiality, grasping how I can develop form is my next target.

Lizzie Farey

I am fascinated by Lizzie’s work – the forms appeal to me a lot. Her statement tells that she has “a fascination with living things and natural form. For me, willow has become a medium for an interaction with nature that is deeply personal….my work ranges form traditional to organic sculptural forms”. I also noticed with interest she calls herself artist / designer / maker. These photos were of my favourites. I particularly liked the site-based one below, called ‘spirit of air’.

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Lewis Knauss 

Lewis doesn’t generally work with willow, but I spotted his work and he works with ideas of identity and place. I noticed immediately that his statement sounds like my essay!: “The significance of place in our lives is central to my work. The textures, materials and processes of textiles allow me to explore ideas about landscape, identity and belonging…The time I spend attentive to landscape translates into process and the labor of making. Images are created thread-by-thread, line-by-line, so that my work can be viewed as landscaped textures that are naturally created, blade-by-blade, leaf-by-leaf”.

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Caroline Sharp

Her work uses natural materials and is strongly influenced by natural forms, containment, growth and movement. Materials used include: stone, clay, chalk, willow, poplar, birch, hazel, and dogwood stems, leaves and wood. She also notes that she has been making work “in response to the craft of charcoal burning and my auto­biographical journey in relation to walking the land and the memory of place”.

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Joe Hogan

Joe’s work is strongly influenced by the landscape of Connemara, where he lives and works. His robust, increasingly sculptural pieces are woven from native willow, and often incorporate twisted bog wood – reminiscent of bleached horns or antlers – from an area of bogland near his home. They are strong, physical pieces with a raw beauty. I also quite like the traditional baskets he makes as well.

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Tim Johnson

Tim has a fascinating website with a wide range of stuff he does. He seems to make baskets out of everything (from willow to rushes to grasses) and all over the world. Here were a couple of my favourites. I particularly like the idea of the ‘woven paths’ (first photo) and wonder if I can make something inspired by this – it completely resonates with my desire line concept I think.

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The annual outing to Ally Pally

The Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace is one of my indicators of Autumn having arrived in full swing. I didn’t go this time in mind to buy epic amounts of yarn and fabric as per usual, instead focussing on visiting a couple of specific exhibiting artists who were there. (I did come home with a stuffed moose, a few yards of fabric and a dress pattern mind you!)

I’ve been starting to get very worried about the impending assessment, which is now exactly 4 weeks away. I am not sure how to tell my story of the last year yet – there is so much which has happened, how on earth can you condense this into a 2″ x 3″ display space? Anyway, visiting the Knitting and Stitching Show was meant to be a distraction – it didn’t work. I did however see some interesting work from the artists I went to see.

First up, Helen Pailing, MADM alumnus, who creates objects out of found / waste materials, and has been doing some ‘stitching’ using glassblower’s waste. I liked her work and was fascinated to see how this has progressed from her earlier works and what she created as part of the MADM course itself.

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Next up was Stella Harding, who had a basketry display in one of the larger galleries. She had a lovely range of small works and some really large scale pieces. I really need to make something big – they are so impactful! Also note the use of the traditional spiral braid weaving – these ones made from painted/dyed rattan.

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While looking at Stella’s work, one thing I reflected about my own work, is however much I love the use of colour, I also like to keep the naturalness of a material – it’s purity and essence perhaps – in the work I make with it. The drawing made with only one ink, the basket made of only one material: showing only what is inherent in itself. Something from the roots of my philosophical nature I suppose?

Desire Line – finished experiment

After a couple of days of weaving the ideas I had got into calligraphy drawings directly into corn, I have now completed a finished test piece! This is the first piece so far that has been properly made with my project concept embedded into both the material and the form. The basket I did for the interim show was communicative materially (even if using maps was a literal interpretation of place), however I made a ‘basket’ shape (a bowl in other words) for lack of any other ideas.

I have to say I am very pleased with how this has come out – I am happy with that it has come out the way I intended. I didn’t pre-plan the exact structure, only the principles I wanted to express in the form, letting serendipity and the nature of the straws guide the way the weaving progressed. I think it may be nice hung in mid-air, but lacking the facilities to do that in my home studio, this is the piece on the wall.
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Contemporary basketmakers

Baskets have a natural ability both to occupy and contain space, with an interplay between inside and outside. Traditionally they were made in response to a need: to separate, to contain, to protect, to transport. Traditionally, baskets were also made from the natural materials the basketmaker had to hand – local woods, vegetations, plants. The materials of the maker’s place became the materials of the techniques used and developed.

This history is one of the main reasons I think exploring a range of basketry techniques is so suited to my project proposal. The weaving allows you to make your own fabric, which makes your own surfaces.

I have been looking into the work of some contemporary basket makes, pulling out those who I find resonate with my aesthetic, techniques or concept. Here are a few of the best I have come across so far.

John Garrett

“Beyond its utilitarian functions of holding, storing and serving, the basket is a decorative object, a status symbol and a ceremonial object.  I draw on these abundant traditions in making my work”

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Rachel Max

“My work investigates the relationships between interior and exterior spaces, especially hidden, secret spaces, and the intrigues or barriers that are often created.”

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Stella Harding 

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Lorraine Gilmore

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It hasn’t escaped my attention that all of these examples are really strong with their use of line and all have an interesting tension between space and surface. Twisting, wrapping, open weaves – all allowing the inside space and outside space to flow between each other.

Life is a reflection of what we allow ourselves to see

The incredibly short summer “break” is already nearing its end. I have taken my head out of my research paper for a few days to see where I am on the practical making side of things, and start with a plan on where to go next. I want to go into my second year with a clear plan – the unit 1 experimentation has been fun, but it is time to stop floating about and focus down the processes and concepts I’m looking at. Well, that sounds decisive doesn’t it?

My hesitancy has been understandable I think: I enjoy using a range of different techniques and have never been particularly over-attached to any specific materials. How do you then start to narrow the field once you have been specifically encouraged to make it so wide? I got started thinking again about ‘my practice’ and what this means to me now – almost exactly a year since I walked out of my desk job and into the studio.

  1. Quilting

I like making quilts. I like making functional quilts that you can wrap yourself up in on the sofa or the beach on a cold winter’s day. Or as cushions. Surprisingly to myself, I have ended up liking the slow, hand-stitching techniques, particularly old english patchwork, paper piecing, hand-quilting, (although I like a pre-cut as much as the next person). What I feel though, is that ‘art quilts’, are not the best way for me to say what I need to say. I realise I am not a natural textile artist – fabric does’t automatically come first for me as a design medium, however well I can manipulate fabric and stitch. I want to just make quilts because I want to. Actual old-fashioned usable quilts, not just something destined for the wall.

2. Calligraphy

Aside from cross-stitch, poetry and calligraphy were probably my first ‘art forms’ as a child. As someone who loves words and the expression of feeling through words, this is no surprise. What has surprised me is that I think I am quite good at it, and that I can get better at it with more practice. Paper and ink are always the first things I will reach for if have spare time in the studio to play….and as for all of these small books / book forms I have made on courses lately….definitely, definitely need to do more. I’m not excluding fabrics and stitch here, but I want it to be there because the work demands it, not as a precondition.

3. Basketry

My new discovery – basket weaving, in an almost infinite variety of forms. I love the freedom you have to create sculpturally with these processes. What I also like is the raw human-ness of the making processes. Basketry has been around as long as people, they have a place in every aspect of our lives. If you extend this out to weaving in general, it is rooted in locality more than any other making process I know, a harmony of harvested natural (or processed!) fibres and human craft skill. Ok, I admit, I’ve been a bit taken by this! The one thing I have realised though my essay research (particularly into Chris Drury) is how the engagement with local can provide volumes of context to understanding your making process: A craft skill originating to a specific region (such as Cumbrian dry-stone walling) or a native material grown and used in a particular area (e.g Japanese Bamboo). Basketry is a naturally 3-dimensional medium, and if you can look at the fibres in the right way, they will tell you what to make with them.

So where does that leave us?

Well, for the purposes of my MA I am going to start to focus primarily on processes associated with basketry/weaving, looking also at how to incorporate and develop my existing textile/drawing practice. As part of my overall ‘professional practice’ I will continue to work on my calligraphy drawings & 3d poems, it will be nice to think they may eventually overlap anyway. My surface design skills and techniques can translate directly over into working with paper.

As a current statement of practice then, focussing on material and process (note, not the concept for once!) this is my first draft:

Predominantly, I like to work with fibres, combining the delicacy of natural plant fibres and papers with the cold hard edges of iron and steel. This embeds a strong sense of dimensionality, both in my drawings and 3D structures. My work balances the tension between here and there, between order and randomness: combining precision basketry and textile craft techniques with processes which bring serendipity and wildness into my materials.

More tomorrow on what experiments I have been doing lately…