Friday, 28 June 2013

Basket Weaving

When I was in high school, across the river from us, was what I understand now to be, a “remedial high school”. At the time we called them slow kids. And some other things too. And I recall the term that was used to describe what went on over there, and what in general was described as an activity not worthy of any merit, as “basket weaving.” It was a term used derisively.

As a 14 year old numbskull, I didn’t give that aspersion much thought. Now, a few decades on from that, and perhaps slightly less numbskullish, I realize that slight was very undeserved. It seems to me increasingly that it is a real shame basketry is regarded so frivolously. I wasn’t one of the slow kids, but I now wonder if I wasn’t done a disservice by not being taught some basket weaving. 

I grasp now that it is a genuinely interesting activity, one that requires skill, a design and engineering sense, demonstrating form following function, showing a visible line to many earlier attempts and iterations, reaching back many generations, used local materials, was a perfect solution to many requirements, was very strong and durable, lasted for a long time and could then be disposed of safely, and undoubtedly gave the maker and user a tremendous sense of satisfaction at having used their hands and eyes and brain in conjunction to make something both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Basketry was used for everything from carriers of all sorts, boats, armour, coops and cages for animals, hats, fishing weirs, bee baskets (properly called “skeps”), houses - and I’m sure there are several other uses I’m forgetting.

In the last bunch of years I’ve certainy been aware of it as a “primitive/archaic/bushcraft” skill, but it is one that I haven’t taken a try at. Not for lack of interest, but just because I have so many other things on the go. In the BBC Farm series I mentioned, there was usually at least one episode that featured someone demonstrating the making of a basket of some sort. It’s gotten me in the mindset that I should give it a try. For some time now I’ve realized that for any sort of wild food harvesting/foraging, a large open topped pack basket makes a lot of sense. I have an idea to try making one that I can mount on my Kifaru PackFrame. I suspect there will be several smaller, very imperfect attempts before I tackle a larger model, but I will do it. Already stripped the library of every book they have on basketry.

This site has a really great overview of pack basket designs.
Some examples of what I will work towards making.
And some lovely general examples of basketry.
Good tutorial. Good site overall.

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