Tag Archives: basketry

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…

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.

Starfield
(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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