Tag Archives: basketry

MA Designer Maker Interim show

We are about halfway through the show as I write this, while sat in our gallery space awaiting this morning’s opening time. In the end, there were a few iterations of my display before settling on the final collection of pieces.  At first, Maiko suggested I was in a no-man’s land: not resolved enough pieces for them to stand alone, but not enough exposure of process to show a proper work in progress. I’m not sure I completely agreed with her, but I understood why she wanted to show more of our processes – and to make a clear distinction between our ‘work in progress’ show and the MA final show – all shiny and finished – downstairs.

At first I tried putting all of my recent samples on the table

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Which I decided looked confused and untidy.  After a few goes re-arranging this, we settled on just showing one aspect of my latest experiments and adding another one of my fabric drawings:

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I also dropped a quick hand with some calligraphy for one of my fellow students in need!

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The view from the door…

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Nearly show time

The day for the interim show opening draws nearer, and it’s all a bit manic in the show space as last minute preparations continue. I think I am pretty much done now, having spent most of the last two weeks working on two new experiments for the show. I have decided to go with three pieces.

(Calico, found steel wires, wild flowers, graphite)
My rust dyeing and drawing experiment. I think this nicely captures the ideas of microcosm-macrocosm and using local materials with non-local symbolism.

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You Were Here
(Steel cable, out-of-date GB road map)
The first of my basketry experiments, using steel cables to echo the importance of iron to human life, both on a micro-scale (human society itself) and a macro-scale (the core of the earth and the core of the dying stars). I like the way the map is out-of-date – showing you a place which does not physically exist, only now an impression of place shaped by memory and experience. The twining was a lot of fun, but making the map yarn took a lot of time. I have the technique sorted now at least!!

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Show me the way to go home
(Steel cable, out-of-date GB road map index)
A follow-on from the first twined piece, making more of the connection between the steel and the earth’s magnetic field. The form of the basket was inspired by a compass rose, where the human impression of place, signified here through a twined yarn made of place names, is what we overlay onto the physical world in order for us to understand it.

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This is my final text for the show guide:

How do we understand our sense of place in the world beyond the constraints of community and culture?  These works explore different aspects of the interaction of local and non-local, the physical and the meta-physical; I use steel wires as a physical manifestation of a material critical in human, planetary and stellar lifecycles. Upon this core, I am experimenting with different weaving and drawing techniques.

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Private View this Thursday night (16 July) at 6pm, Camberwell College of Arts!!

Basketry identity | Cowey Sale to Sudbury Lock

A lovely day in the spring sushine down in Walton-on-Thames to visit the Basketmakers’ Association exhibition Basketry Identity at the Riverhouse gallery.

The Basketmakers Association are hosting this exhibition of members work. The pieces on display are a response to the maker’s idea about their ‘Basketry Identity’. The exhibition will show the wide range of materials and techniques used in the creation of both functional and artistic basketry. There will be an installation and various sculptural forms. The whole will reflect the great skill and diversity of basketmaking today.

The exhibits were indeed a range of the great diversity of basketmaking, from “traditional” willow, hazel, cane baskets to things which looked like baskets made from other materials, to basketry techniques applied to create pure contemporary artworks. Very much recommended if you are in the area. Some highlights in the slideshow!

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My photos (and my attention) were drawn to the more contemporary works and particularly those using paper. What I noticed from the other works, is how much reference to place there is in the work of the basketmakers both explicitly and implicitly. Makers mentioned where the fibre was grown (and occasionally who by), where the basketry technique came from or how experiences of a place inspired a particular work.

After the exhibition, since it was so lovely out I took myself onto the Thames Path which runs behind the gallery. I walked the section up from the Walton Bridge at Cowey Sale all the way up to Sudbury Lock. My new psychogeographic thinking hat got be wondering some interesting thoughts on the way – most noticeably how many different identities a place can have. Each of us creates our own place, even as we stand out on the same road looking at the same river.

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This picture shows what I mean – I’ve never been to Walton-on-Thames before, and was slightly surprised to find that barely 30mins from my flat is picture perfect riverside England. I know nothing about the area, so all I could do is overlay my own narratives which started to surface as you try to interpret the place you find yourself in. Here, the Thames is a completely different river to the waters which run through my suburb 24miles downstream. This riverside speaks quietly of old England – of straw hats, cricket and tea on the lawn. You can imagine the long winding journey through green rolling hillsides that the waters have taken, from the elderly ash tree under which old Father Thames sits smoking a pipe. The walk so much reminds me of my childhood. I see ghosts of myself sat on a river bank somewhere in Northumberland, dad knee deep in the water with a brightly coloured fly, barely seen, whipping in and out of the shadows. This was my place – and I could see its echo imprinted on the sight of a totally different town in a totally different geography, with people and stories I have never met. Returning home, a new story emerges: here the Tideway is a different creature altogether, one made of salt, steam and blood. The lower Thames’ dark and murky brackish waters have greased the wheels of industry since the days the Romans first settled on Ludgate Hill. I am still looking for my place here.

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Textile basketry @ West Dean College

Great weekend at West Dean, such a lovely place and a lovely tutor, Mary Crabb. We were focussing on the technique of twining, which I was first introduced to in Shane’s basketry worktop at Stave Hill last term. This course however, was looking specifically at soft structures, using textile fibres to create the basket forms. A great technique which I very much enjoyed using, where the structure is formed from the strength of the weave without needing any wood or wire supports. I think this is going to be a very interesting thing to explore back in my MA work.

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The group was 10 ladies all with a range of interests and experiences, but all of us pretty much new to basketry. It was a great atmosphere and set up, West Dean comes highly recommended – especially the Sunday roast and rhubarb crumble! This was our tutor, Mary Crabb hanging up some of our samples for display. Most of the structural supports we used were a thick paper yarn, after that we used either thinner paper yarns or any other mixed fibres – it was fascinating to see what people’s colour and textural choices were, from the huge box of goodies Mary brought for us to use.

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We were taught five initial samples using different techniques and applications of twining including a couple using willow supports. It was up to us how we developed those samples and if we wanted to add any 3D aspects or keep them flat. In light of what I am trying to do with my Camberwell work, I thought trying to see where the 3D elements could come would be most useful!

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Sunday was a little different, as we were encouraged to “freestyle” and use the techniques we had been taught on anything we had liked most. I tried two things – first a very miniature basket (so cute!!!)

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The second piece was a bit more experimental, where I wanted to see how far I could push the structural properties of the technique. This isn’t yet finished, so I will continue to work on this at home – just need to get some more paper yarn on order!

Finally, here is a shot of the work which Mary does – quite a lot of her current pieces are working with thin wires. Amazing meticulous work which takes days to do. Let’s see if I can come up with anything quite as interesting! Overall a great course.

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Elementals III

In my catch up with Maiko last week, she suggested I explore other making processes and also that I make some 3D forms. So I thought I would start the week off following on from where I left off with the elemental inspired basket-things I made last week.

IMG_0296At first there was a realm of fire and ice
Paper, acrylic, sand

IMG_0297At first there was a realm of fire and ice (detail)

IMG_0298Elementals: Fire (Queen of Wands) II
Paper, acrylic

IMG_0299Elementals: Fire (Queen of Wands) II
(Detail of tri-axial weave)

I’m actually happy with progress for once!

Inspirational photos of the day

I’ve been exploring how to take forward my current calligraphy work onto the next level today. Got some interesting experiments on the go (we will see how they turn out tomorrow!); my focus is on the material properties. I have written down what I like in my calligraphy drawings – in my notebook and sketchbook – and want to find other materials which embody these ideas.

I have a few good ideas so far! First of these good ideas is continuing to work with that most ordinary material, paper. This encapsulates my project philosophy of seeing the extraordinary though the ordinary. What can I do with paper to make it express an extraordinary moment?

Some inspirational photos to start me off.

Raija Jokinen (Finland)


Donna Sakamoto Crispin (USA)


Dorothy McGuiness (USA)


Naomi Kobayashi (Japan)


Imbolc inspired making

So, with my research progressing and the fact that Imbolc itself is only a few days away, it seems apt to be making stuff inspired by it. First, the symbols and feelings I wanted to express with whatever I make.

  • Correspondences: Earth / Air; white, yellow, green
  • Aspect of the Maiden Goddess: emergence, youth, purity, new beginnings, rebirth, renewal, sexuality, initiation

I started by making the traditional Brigit’s Cross to get myself going. Since I’ve no rushes or straw to hand, I used a textile equivalent! I went with white as a classic symbol of purity.

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These were my next experiments using the Brigit’s cross form. I wanted to look at the idea of the earth being a “womb” for the new seeds of spring at this time of year. This also echoes the ideas of the rebirth of the Maiden Goddess. Just made out of card as maquettes, pending a decision on materials.

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…and after some more thinking, this was the next version of the model. Good progress I think. Currently not using any colour, although I am tempted to add some red flowers somewhere to represent a young maiden’s ‘flowering’ – particularly since ritual basket making is commonly associated with the commencement of menstruation. Anyway a digression for later perhaps.

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And finally, while playing with a new material which I picked up yesterday this was an impulse make – but I really like how it came out.

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A Wassail bowl, and an emerging idea

So here is the result of the experiment with making a wassail bowl. I wanted to see if I could create a woven object made using a mixture of basket weaving techniques and quilted materials. I really like the idea of making baskets, but finding access to natural woods and weavers in London is a challenge (without the risk of getting arrested for chopping down parts of Royal Parks!). So, is there an alternative way to make ‘wooden’ sticks? This was my first attempt as to whether the idea might have legs.

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Result: ok, better quality than my samples so far. The interfaced quilted pieces (side stems and top border) worked very well as they had enough rigidity, However, making long enough pieces of narrow strengthened fabric for the long weavers turned out to be more of a challenge, hence the use of the fabric strips. The colours were chosen to reflect the vibrancy of the apple trees and what they need to thrive: sunshine, water. Nice and cheesy, but not convinced this adds much. Also a question – this may be pretty but you can’t actually use it for drinking from; does the lack of functionality void its purpose?

Reflection: I have been unwell this week and in a lot of pain, and as you might expect not really on top form. I used making the bowl partly to get some work done, but also as a distraction from moping around the house. It is interesting therefore to notice that I think this comes across in the object. Not specifically the being in pain, but that the feeling and intent behind the object was shallow and a bit, well…, obvious.

So what to do differently?

Well a couple of things have sprung to mind. Firstly, that I think there may be something interesting in exploring the basketry using textiles thing, but making more of it materially as opposed to just substituting fabric for wood. Particularly if I can make best use of the texture of the material in the final form. Also if the material is stitchable, why not stitch something onto the weavers; build blessings into a blessing basket?

The second thing comes back to intent. Yesterday I had a nice chit-chat over a bowl of soup with my friend and co-MADM student Anita. I shared that I have been worrying about how to up the quality of my work while still exploring new things (since my last chat with Maiko in December). A couple of key things Anita said in response have resonated with what I had been thinking after my latest making experiment. This is my take-away from it:

  • Try to push the boundaries of what you do. Don’t put your skills in a box and label it “quilting”
  • Think about the materiality of things, it could be anything you look at which could be used and translated into an object
  • What do materials say to you, what do they make you think about?
  • Ignore the technique, think about what feelings you want in the object

Good learning (thanks Anita), I think this is going to be this term’s challenge, and a very important one to resolve to get real emotions into my practice. I have decided my way into doing this is going to be through ‘intent cards‘. This is a technique I’ve used in writing rituals, which now seems very applicable to translate over into my making. Each thing I make needs to have proper intent in making it. To ensure this, if I explicitly define this intent before I start making a new sample and then work to it during the making, there will be more chance of achieving it.

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Let’s see where this takes me!

Happy Friday xxx

And a river runs through it

One of Maiko’s suggestions in our last tutorial was for me to consider some mythological objects and uses, and use those to try to get some stronger meaning into my work. Looking back it has been a bit ‘functional’ instead of speaking with strong messages. I have some good ideas of research to do – a few museums to visit, places to go, books to read etc. but not sure how much will realistically get done in the 15 days left before going away, ontop of everything else. Always good to start though! and in-between getting more work done on my City & Guilds quilts, I have had an idea of something to explore.

The first inspiration source was from an episode of Masterchef on catch-up TV I was watching yesterday. One of the young chefs on the show was taking about how he likes his food to tell a story – this one dish he made was flavours from his childhood farm – according to Mr Wearing, the emotion and passion for the ingredients could be tasted in the food. This dish also spoke of “grown together goes together”. I’ve written about this before on this blog, and as something of a foodie / food-lover, I can attest to this being true. Now I like a tasty pie as much as the next person, but also quite enjoy dishes which do speak of something beyond just some ingredients stuck on a plate – as long as the flavour is not comprised by prettyness. This can translate straight into any other craft – you get a more powerful piece when you can see a good message / narrative coming through alongside good quality making. I have been cooking much longer than I have been making, so I thought to myself, why not see how I would approach designing a michelin starred menu and then translate this into my making?

  • I like a balanced dish which demonstrates technique but no fancy additives for the sake of it; honest cooking done very well
  • I like dishes which are more than the sum of its parts – telling a personal story from the chef which sings out in the food
  • I like ingredients that have meanings, and using them in balance in a dish to suit the mood or feeling you need to create (e.g. herblore)
  • I work with natural ingredients, no chemical additives or preservatives.
  • I love foraging and hedgerow cooking when I can get it – brambling was a childhood favourite
  • I like dishes which offer a respectful modern take on traditional classics, but still taste of what it should be. Don’t give me a ‘deconstructed lemon tart’ by breaking up biscuits and shoving lemon sorbet on a plate.

Hmm, well now. My first thought on this was to make something which used materials I had to hand and which meant something to me (not just ordered off the internet). What I found to hand were three things – a bit of tree I found outside the house which was left over from my Tesseract made back in September; bramble sticks I cut from the weaving workshop with Shane; and rocks I picked up from the beach in Littlehampton last week. Bit of a theme there! This is something I did thoughout my childhood (and beyond) – I would pick up random bits and bobs from beaches and riverbanks across the country. My dad was, and still is, an obsessive angler, so we often found ourselves sat on a waterside on weekends and holidays. Everytime I would bring back shells, sand, rocks, pebbles, twigs and walking sticks from everywhere we went (I think many of these are still stored in my parents’ house…). I never made anything with them, just brought back something of the land, river or sea.

Maiko also suggested that I consider making something in response to one of the artists I’ve researched so far.  Dail Behennah and her modern basketry is the person who keeps coming back into mind. In a spare hour I found today, thought I could combine all of these ideas flying around my head and just make something. This is the result.

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Plane tree branch (London), Bramble twigs (London), steel pins, linen thread, rocks (Littlehampton), silk strands

Earth / Air / Metal

The object is reminiscent of the offerings and shrines left in sacred trees across many cultures. There is a huge wealth of mythology and folklore around trees. In the UK, Druids were thought to use forest groves for worship, and many neo-pagan groups will use prayer ribbons tied to tree branches in modern ritual practice. The trees are the physical representation of the wisdom of the earth, as if drawing on the deep unconsciousness of the world below to rise up towards the light. Like the sacred trees, all humans are born from the mother earth and are dependent upon its providence for survival.

Now, I wonder how much of this do other people read in the object?

Real world talk – crafting practices

Late night talk at the Whitechapel Gallery yesterday, from our own Shane Waltener and maker Helen Carnac. It was badged as a discussion on the Art v Craft debate – with both of the speakers straddling / crossing whatever boundaries exisit between fine art and crafts.

Key thoughts and questions I noted:

  • What is the relationship between the viewer an the object?  Does this make an impact on whether it is art or craft object?
  • Shane proposed: a CRAFT object needs to refer to its own making or the process of making; an ART object doesn’t, it prompts you to forget the making or look at it differently.
  • When an object is very well made – high craftsmanship – you can almost forget about the making and understand it in a different way
  • Technique can be an inhibitor to learning
  • How does the object interact with space?
  • What matters more – the object or its making?  Should we dispose of the objects and just leave the instructions?
  • It is not about the looking – it is about experiencing.  Does the value of art get reduced by not being able to interact with it?

Some of Shane’s work that he showed which I really liked: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA image05 59 Over Here - Shane Waltener

Helen, a maker and curator, talked about her most recent residency with dancer Laila Diallo.  She talked about having a fascination for edges – which I really resonated with.  She said  “edges were fertile places” which I thought was such a great way of thinking about it. She also described how she and Laila had collected as shared words during their time together which acted as a soundboard for thoughts and ideas. I rather liked this, and this was my collection of words I wrote down during her talk.