The afternoon light is coming in long golden shafts through the skylights of the upstairs atrium at my inlaws' house here in Glen Margaret, Nova Scotia, as I write this. Though Nova Scotia has its fair share of ugly shopping malls and subdivisions (signs of wealth and well being, in their own way), the places off the beaten path here, and in the rest of the Maritime Provinces that I've seen, still breathe with a bucolic and genteel charm. For me it seems an utterly different culture from the rough, vigorous ways of British Columbia.
We have a lot of summer birthdays in the family, and a combined four children under the age of eight, and so I've been making a few little knick-knacks for the occasion. These little fairies are made of corn husks, which has become one of my favourite materials of late. It is so supple and so gentle in my hands, so playful. These figures require only dried corn husk and a little bit of fine yarn or heavy thread to make. I like to dry the corn husks quickly, spreading them out in the sun to be sure they don't start mouldering or get spots. The rope-like arms and legs add some visual interest and structural stability, and since they tend to curve to varying degrees depending on tension, they help to add individual character to each figure.
This is a little oval crayon basket out of some of last year's calendar pages. It is the largest thing I've made so far according to the diagonal plaiting methods outlined in Vladimir Yarish's book, Plaited Basketry with Birch Bark
. Because of the double-walled construction, these vessels become much stronger (and use up much more material) than one would expect from a vessel made of such thin, flexible stuff.
This basket also has a core inside its rim. I can't find any willow around here so I used a branch of a flexible vine-maple-like tree that's growing near the driveway.
Basket people can be a bit difficult to find on the web. Even when I searched 'baskets' on Etsy, I got just about nil. Maybe that's not a very sophisticated search, but I suspect that it might also be due to a certain lack of search engine optimization savvy in the basket people demographic.
Anyway, this blog project has become the means by which I am educating myself about the larger realm of basket people and basket techniques.
Enjoy this basket person's work, and let it inspire you to grab some scissors and start experimenting!
I had thought to upload the instructions for my plaited paper lantern baskets tonight, but that will have to wait; this short video clip of a Korean paper basketry technique has struck me dumb with amazement.
Please take a moment to admire this gentleman's elegant, fluid motions as he performs his work.
And if anyone can shed light on the interesting cultural specificity of the function of the vessel he's weaving, please do!
I've been thinking about basket projects that are timely for the winter, when most vegetation has died back and what's left isn't very inspiring to make with anyway.
Paper is a wonderful medium with which to learn some basic basket structures: endless variety, plentiful even in the winter, uniform, and very forgiving.
These are some very simple plaited baskets I made in December for gifts, and my kids have adopted several too, for general service toy cartage and storage. They are much more beautiful than any plastic piece of toy equipment, can be made to any size between 2" square to 4"-5" square, very nice sizes for small collections of marbles, fir cones, small felt toys and gnomes, etc.