Gathering, storing and preparing nature’s plenty for basket making is a ritual I continue, following a practice that is centuries old.
Baskets go back to human beginnings. Their life span is short compared to clay vessels. Baskets have been replaced again and again, making new and old baskets a reminder of nature’s gifts to us from the hands and imagination of weavers, most of whom are unknown.
My basket making has evolved over 16 years into using many different plants from nature that I gather around my home and in the area. Bulrush, sedge, iris and daylily leaves I gather in the fall, letting them dry. When I want to weave with them they are soaked briefly then stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few days to become pliable for weaving. Red osier only has its lovely burgundy color in winter, so I cut it then, along with willow, in wet areas where it grows. Willow and red osier can be used “fresh” for weaving and willow can dry and be re-soaked to make it pliable for weaving.
Black ash and cedar bark require more preparation and frequently weavers purchase these materials, but I gather and prepare each for weaving. Black ash growth rings are pounded off a 6-7 foot wet log in strips 1 ½ - 2 inches wide. The strips are then split vertically to obtain thinner material for weaving. The “wrong” side of the strip may need to be scraped, then the ash cut into desired widths for weaving. The preparation of cedar bark is similar although not identical to ash. Both ash and cedar require wetting to become pliable for weaving. Baskets, large and small, can be made from each of these materials which allows for variety.
I delight in using a variety of materials when weaving because each is unique in its color, texture, strength and flexibility. For instance, iris leaves have subtle colors and the texture between my fingers when weaving, and it is oh so soft to touch. How impressive that these leaves can be twined, plaited, coiled or twisted into cordage! Coiling pine needles is a traditional means of creating baskets throughout the world. Although long needles are preferred, several varieties of pine trees produce needles for weaving.
Whether pieces of art or utilitarian, my baskets begin with nature’s bounty. My baskets are created following my knowledge of the materials and guided by my artistic instincts. My hope is you will find beauty in them.