Tag Archives: basketry

Oh, a dainty plant is the ivy green

Basket Weaving day! Very good day of learning new skills and having fun while getting terribly rained on. I have always liked the idea of weaving and making baskets, having transformed many a ear of corn into Lammas corn dollies and recently coming across a lot of contemporary artist working in the area.  Today I finally got my chance, while learning from the most excellent Shane W. We got a tour of the park he is currently artist in residence for, the Stave Hill Ecological Park in London’s Docklands.  He showed us a range of the plants which are good for weaving – and even out of the summer season, there is a lot of natural materials possible to use in beautifully crafted objects: willow, ivy, hazel, nettles, bramble, blackthorn, hops, rose creepers among many others.

Photo 03-11-2014 11 06 10Photo 03-11-2014 11 07 34

Photo 03-11-2014 11 22 34 We were shown a couple of techniques, and then used or foraged materials to make a basket construction.

Photo 03-11-2014 15 39 20 Photo 03-11-2014 13 33 19 Photo 03-11-2014 15 36 22

I very much liked these techniques, and in fact also using all of the natural materials.  One of my personal obsessions is folklore and mythology, and working with trees – each one of which has a plethora of different historical associations and legends – this appeals very much.  I took out all of the mythological elements of my proposal between iteration 1 and 2 (after my interview).  I do wonder if I should bring some of this back.

My basket, although small, seemed very much to me like an old viking drinking horn or the older horn of plenty.  Linking this with ivy, itself a plant symbolising fidelity, seemed somehow very appropriate.  This is the sort of deep, ancient connection between material and symbolism that I can’t resist. I did also try a stripped down form by making a pure weaved frame in a grid pattern; I had intended on doing more with this, but ran out of time.

Summary thoughts then. First off, I must get a copy of Shane’s book – I would like to learn more techniques, and try mixing up the materials a little. I think trying these out would fit very well with my plan to make a set of sample surfaces/objects over the holidays (this plan is currently rather ambitiously called #100cubes). Finally, must consider the mythology question and if this is merely a natural extension to my current proposal. Isn’t mythology just our society’s way of describing the reality of the world before we had the language of science?

And as a last word, having been thinking about Viking drinking legends on the tube home, I have found myself listening to obscure Nordic folk music (you have to love the internet). I found this great Finnish song from Värttinä which describes nicely how I interpret today’s mood from my basket weaving. Not sure what that signifies, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

Artists profile: Dail Behennah

Do you remember the show Treasure Hunt?  Where Anneka Rice ran around the countryside in a jump suit following obscure clues?  I Ioved that show – they really don’t make TV like that anymore! Well, this is how I’m currently finding research!  Starting from one artist and then looking up exhibitions and books they appear in, and then finding other relevant artists from those books.  It is a surprising amount of fun – although I am aware I need to do something with all of the inspiration.

So, this is how I came across Dail Behennah, a maker from Bristol who creates amazing contemporary baskets using her own unique construction methods.  Found in the book “Art Textiles of the World: Great Britain volume 3”. First off, some pictures:

Blackthorn-DishBlackthorn Bowl (2006), white willow, blackthorn, bamboo, dowels, gluePebble-Sphere_5Pebble Sphere (2006), acrylic box, MDF, gesso, varnish, pebbles, crimps, wire

Stainless-steel-balls_1Stainless Steel Balls, Stainless steel cable plaited

Twenty-five-SquaresTwenty Five Squares, white willow, silver plated pins White-Square2_1White Willow Square (2006), white willow, silver plated pinsdail_behennah-Intersecting Circles (2006), white willow, dowels


What I like about her work is the feeling of strong geometry and such clear line and form.  She notes this herself in her artist’s statement:

“There are two strands to my work. The first is geometry and mathematics which underpin everything. The second is a sense of place. I have a degree in geography and my vessels are constructed as one would build a 3D relief map, starting with a regular grid and drawing on contour lines which form the curves of the container. Many of my baskets refer to, and contain elements of, a particular landscape…My work is informed by my knowledge of baskets and basketry…but my pieces are usually made using techniques that I have devised myself. I build rather than weave, and the long straight sticks of willow lead to line rather than surface or volume. I prefer the method of construction to be visible and honest, so the pins or wires that hold the work together provide punctuation marks on the smooth surface of the willow….My work is about line, light and shadow and I always try to bring to it a sense of calm, but not stillness.”

I am very inspired by all of her work, and quite interested in the idea of making baskets or at least forms of this style.  I have been thinking a lot recently about experimenting with some sort of weaving.  We have a workshop on Monday with Shane on basket weaving, which I’m quite excited about. Hopefully it won’t be called off due to heavy rain!

Inspiration I’d like to take forward:

  • the strength of line to make form
  • a maker who is happy combining her art form with her science background!
  • playing with natural materials, perhaps in combination with man-made or technologically advanced materials: a sense of two parts of a modern reality?
  • rocks!

I also spotted this work, 100 Beginnings, where Dail has created the start of 100 different baskets using a range of different materials and techniques.  This is similar in a way, to the idea I was having over making my surface samples.  Perhaps I should think more three dimensionally, and try something like this. I also didn’t think about making quite so many – but then again, why not?!One-Hundred-Beginnings-detail

ANT xx