Plaited basketry at City Lit

Last week we finished the first module of the two-year basketry course at City Lit. The subject was plaiting, and the tutor was Polly Pollock. I missed the first week because I was on holiday in Uzbekistan, so as soon as I got back it was straight into a marathon strip-cutting session!

We started off with watercolour paper, as it is strong but flexible. However, we were encouraged to experiment with other materials and also to add overlays (extra elements threaded through after weaving the main basked) to add colour and texture.

The three main techniques we covered were bias plaiting, straight plaiting and skewed forms. We combined these with different borders – zigzag, flat and sandwich and sew.

Here are some of my practice samples made with bias plaiting using khadi paper, an old map, newspaper cordage and vinyl wallpaper.

bias plaited bowl bias plaited bowl bias plaited bowl bias plaited bowl

Here’s a straight plaited vessel made with watercolour paper.

straight plait vessel

And here’s a skewed vessel, also made with watercolour paper.

skewed vessel

For our final module assignment we had to make a series of three related pieces using some or all of these techniques, inspired by the modern architecture of Rotterdam.

I have to admit that this was a bit of a challenge for me, as my inspiration usually comes from natural rather than human-made forms. But even I got drawn in by the weird and wacky architecture of this Dutch city.

Here are the results, all made with watercolour paper, damp proof membrane and flattened corrugated cardboard.

plaited basket plaited basket plaited basket

I have to admit that the third piece, of a vessel within a vessel, was actually inspired by another building in London, and its spiky “haircut” was just a piece of whimsy on my part (though I could argue it’s supposed to be a roof garden 😉 ). It’s also not really tall enough, but I ran out of paper and time as it had to be finished for evaluation last week.

I really enjoyed this first module. It was quite intense – and hard work cutting all the strips! – and moved me out of my comfort zone.

This week we move on to willow, which I suspect will also be challenging!

Wandsworth Artists’ Open House 2019

I’m delighted to be taking part in Wandsworth Artists’ Open House for the first time this year with my friend Emma Gibson. The event runs over the first two weekends in October.

Emma makes beautiful handmade contemporary jewellery.

She works mainly in silver, combining traditional and experimental techniques to produce bold pieces, which often retain the texture of the hammers used to forge them.

Emma allows for an element of chance in her work so that even if a design is repeated each piece remains individual.

I will be showing and selling some of my basketry work – another first for me!

I will also have my latest batch of upcycled indigo and ecoprinted accessories and clothing.

When: 5-6 October and 12-13 October, 11am-6pm
Where: 46 Drakefield Road, London SW17 8RP

Hope to see you there!

Basketry – function and ornament at Ruthin Craft Centre

Practically everyone who is anyone in the world of British basketry is featured in “Basketry – function and ornament” at Ruthin Craft Centre in north Wales, so it’s well worth making the effort to visit this wonderful, inspiring exhibition, curated by Gregory Parsons.

As the title implies, the show includes everything from beautifully made functional baskets to pieces whose impact relies more on form than function. I must admit that I tend to be drawn towards the latter in the selection below.

Alison Dickens
Anna King
Anne Marie O’Sullivan
Clare Revera
Dail Behennah
Jane Crisp
Joe Hogan
Laura Ellen Bacon
Lise Bech
Lizzie Farey
Lois Walpole
Maggie Smith
Mandy Coates
Mary Butcher
Mary Crabb
Polly Pollock
Rachel Max
Sarah Paramor
Stella Harding
Tim Johnson

“Basketry – function and ornament” runs at the Ruthin Craft Centre until 13 October 2019.

As you  may have gathered from all these recent posts on basketry, it’s an area in which I have developed quite an interest. So much so that I have signed up for the two-year City Lit basketry course. This is quite a commitment, but I’m really looking forward to starting on 19 September.

Look out for a few more basketry posts in future! 😉

Lines and Fragments by Tim Johnson

tim johnson little bags

“Understanding particular properties of particular plants during identification, harvest, processing, selection and finally making not only equips ourselves for making tasks in hand but also gives us a deeper connection to place and its complexity.”

The artist and basketmaker Tim Johnson has spent the past 25 years exploring the relationship between place and material, as this exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham makes clear.

Take the series of 42 little bags simply hung in three rows on the wall (and I would happily take them, every single one). It’s a fascinating display of sampling – the same technique with different materials, or the same materials with different techniques. Each one is absorbing in its details and range of possibilities.

His 2D Lines and Fragments series also incorporates found objects as well as earth pigments, dried herbs and fruit.

tim johnson lines and fragments

And his Curve series moves on with willow and earth pigments to develop the 3D form.

The Cortina works play with light and shadow – I particularly like the use of dried bean pods here.

Another one used yellow plastic coated wire.

My favourite pieces were  the Keeping Time baskets.

I particularly loved the cross sections of the bulrushes when close up.

Tim lives just outside Barcelona with another basketmaker, Monica Guilera, and there were some collaborative pieces on show.

It was also interesting to see some of the sources of his inspiration, including a squashed lampshade found in the road. 🙂

Lines and Fragments runs at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham until 31 August 2019.

Making a coiled sycamore seed

In a previous post I mentioned a course on coiled basketry I was taking with Polly Pollock at City Lit and described the different samples I had made.

The second half of the course focused on our own personal projects, developing the techniques we had learned to produce a piece or series of samples inspired by the seedpod theme.

My inspiration actually came from a piece of driftwood.

driftwood

It reminded me of a sycamore (US: maple) seed, so I thought I would try to weave something around it to create the “wings”.

At first I tried wrapped linear coiling with paper yarn, but it felt too solid and heavy – this was supposed to represent a floating, spinning seed.

linear coiling

So then I tried a more open weave approach, using blanket stitch with cordage, still with paper yarn. This worked better but was a bit too large.

sycamore seed sample

I tried changing materials, using a thinner cordage and enamelled wire for the blanket stitch. This was much better!

sycamore seed wire sample

There was still more experimenting to be done with varying the tension of the stitch to evoke the marks and form of the seed, but I finally got started.

sycamore seed wip

Finally, the finished piece:

sycamore seed

As ever, it was fascinating to see the very different pieces that everyone produced. I don’t have permission to post photos of others’ work, so you’ll have to take my word for it! But it was a fantastic course and I would highly recommend it.

There is also an exhibition coming up of work by students who are completing the two-year City Lit diploma in basketry. It’s at the Espacio Gallery in London from 23 to 28 July. I’ve seen some of the work on Instagram and it looks well worth a visit!

Different materials, different result

I seem to be getting more obsessed with basketry at the moment – I’m currently doing an eight-week course (one day a week) on coiled basketry with Polly Pollock at City Lit.

The first four weeks have been spent exploring different ways of starting baskets and working with different materials and stitches. In the second half of the course we are expected to work on our own projects around the theme of seedpods. So as you can imagine, this suits me down to the ground! 🙂

So far I’ve experimented with colour:

raffia coiled with hemp
Raffia coiled with hemp

With softer and harder materials:

fabric coiled with paper yarn
Fabric coiled with paper yarn
seagrass coiled with paper yarn
Seagrass coiled with paper yarn

With additions:

seagrass coiling with hare barley additions
Seagrass coiling with hare barley additions

And combining with felt:

coiling with felt
Coiling with felt

I also tried some “linear” coiling – creating rows rather than spiralling from the centre. The first sample I made with this technique had a thick core, which I wrapped with a stiff paper yarn. As I progressed, the piece began to twist quite spontaneously.

twisted coiled piece
Twisted coiling

I made similar pieces with the same core material but different wrapping fibres, which were all softer than the paper yarn. Some of these pieces twisted a little, others hardly at all.

I also tried making a piece with “ribs” to give a more defined form. I bound five lengths of seagrass together and coiled a thinner piece of green seagrass around them using blanket stitch. Because the seagrass ribs were relatively soft, the tension of the stitching tended to twist them slightly to the right, which made the final piece look a little unbalanced.

As a felter, I am used to shaping a piece while fulling it – the final form can look very different from the original! So I thought I would try reshaping this piece to emphasise the twisting even further. The paper yarn is strong but flexible, so this worked out quite well.

twisted coiled seedpod

This week we were working with natural materials, so I repeated this form using strips of cordyline as the ribs, dried daffodil leaves as the core, and waxed polyester string for stitching.

The cordyline was much stiffer than the seagrass, and I found that if I pulled the ribs together at the top, the coiled sections between the ribs bulged outwards, producing a completely different shape.

coiled daffodil leaves

It’s a useful reminder of how you can achieve completely different results with different materials, and making samples is a very worthwhile exercise. 🙂

Kinetic peapod

A while ago, after experimenting with random weave puzzle balls, I made a multilayered set of random weave spheres in neutral colours.

random weave spheres

I then decided to develop this into a multistorey set of three multilayered spheres, but with only three layers each. (Still with me?)

I started with three random weave white paper spheres of different sizes.

Then I created another mould around them and wove another layer on top.

I joined them all together into a single mould.

And then wove around this single mould with black fibre (string and hemp).

Then it was time to remove the moulds! After removal of first mould:

After removing the second layer of moulds:

And finally after removing the innermost moulds:

The spheres in the middle layer touch each other. This was not my original intention, but I found it difficult to weave the joining “necks” narrow enough to prevent it. This means that when you move one sphere, the others move too, which adds an unplanned kinetic touch to the piece!

Made 2019 at Morley Gallery

The current exhibition at Morley Gallery, Made 2019, features work by textiles and jewellery students at Morley College. The theme is based on cultural patterns and form inspired by Oceania.

Thanks to the basketry course I did last term with Stella Harding I was able to submit an entry to the exhibition. My piece, “Vision of Jawun”, was inspired by the bicornual baskets known as jawun made by the rainforest people in northeast Queensland in Australia.

Jawun were used to collect and carry food and also as sieves to leach out toxic substances. Typically made from lawyer cane, the baskets were sometimes painted when used for trading or as gifts.

random weave paper vessel dyed with eucalyptus
Image: Owen Llewellyn
random weave paper vessel dyed with eucalyptus
Image: Owen Llewellyn
random weave paper vessel dyed with eucalyptus
Image: Owen Llewellyn

My interpretation of a jawun is a random weave piece made with paper yarn; the lower part was dyed with eucalyptus, a plant indigenous to Australia.

The private view last Wednesday was absolutely heaving with people by the time I arrived, and it took me a while to locate my piece. To my surprise, rather than being on a plinth it was hung on a nail at around hip height. Because the gallery was so crowded I could see that the vessel was in danger of being damaged – within just a couple of minutes of my arrival one visitor had stepped back against it, while another one hit it with her bag as she squeezed past. 😦

I’m afraid at this stage I got a bit prima donna-ish and removed the piece from the wall. When I gave it to the gallery manager and explained why, she was very nice and understanding about it. And when I went back to the gallery today to look at the exhibition with more breathing space, it had been placed on a plinth, thank goodness.

There were a couple of pieces from other basketry students.

This random weave piece by Barbara Billings was a comment on pollution in the oceans and how rubbish floats on top of the mess hiding below the surface.

Alyson Burberry, A Green Bag of Rubbish

“A Green Bag of Rubbish” by Alyson Burberry was made with found objects, shower sponges and rope, and was also based on Aboriginal hunting bags.

Cherry Taylor, Ceremonial Objects

Deserved winner of the Sarah Campbell Prize was Cherry Taylor for her found objects wrapped with raffia dyed with procion dyes and inks.

Sarah McEvoy, Cailleach and Brighde

I liked Sarah McEvoy’s knitted figure embellished with seeds and crystal, inspired by dolls that Japanese farmers hang outside windows to bring good weather or prevent rain.

The Japanese influence was strong overall. This kimono-style jacket by Sarah Wilson was made using shibori, sashiko and boro techniques from material sourced in second-hand shops.

Line Le Fevre, Noren Inspired

Hung to resemble a traditional kimono, Line Le Fevre’s four hand-dyed panels were printed with discharge and dye paste.

Bukki Adeyemo, Up in Arms

Bukki Adeyemo’s “Up in Arms” used recycled materials stained with rust to represent the potential impact of rising sea levels on  many of the Pacific Islands due to climate change.

Sarah Sikorski, screen printed cotton

Sarah Sikorski’s screen printed cotton was inspired by tapa bark cloth from Tonga, which portrays historic or cultural events – in this case the overuse and irresponsible disposal of plastic objects.

Finally – look away now if you are easily offended. 😉 Karen Byrne’s piece was a response to the dilukai sculptures of young women with splayed legs carved over the doorways of chiefs’ houses in Micronesia.

Karen Byrne, Dilukai

Made 2019 runs at Morley Gallery until 26 March.