Tag Archives: basketry

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.

Photo 26-01-2015 18 06 44

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.


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.

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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.

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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.