The first half of this term’s basketry course at City Lit focused on working with cane, with Polly Pollock. Many of the stake and strand techniques that we used are similar to those we learnt when working with willow last term, but subtly different.
After learning how cane is grown and harvested, we started with dyeing, using Rit dyes. Initially we were very careful to use different bowls for every colour, but by the end we were dipping the cane with abandon into many colours (or was that just me?). 😉
These dyed samples were only for experimenting with, so for once I moved away from my normal palette into shades of raspberry and pistachio.
To learn the basic techniques, we used discs of MDF pre-drilled with holes rather than making a base, which was a lot quicker!
We used these to practise stepping up, packing and waling.
Polly likes to set a project for each module, and the theme of this one was to make a cane platter inspired by aerial photography. I played around with a few ideas, but was most attracted by the patterns formed by mountain ridges.
This didn’t involve packing and waling, but relied on pairing using weavers of different colours. Because the platter was worked from the centre, we would have to add more “spokes” as it grew, and this design would also make a virtue of this necessity, as the spokes are an integral part of the pattern. I thought I also might be able to create texture by varying the tension or using weavers of different thicknesses so that the spokes sat higher than the background.
To test out the idea I worked a couple of samples – which was very useful.
Having ascertained that the technique was feasible, it was on to the real thing. For this I reverted to my normal colour preference!
Unfortunately, I made a couple of elementary mistakes in the planning.
First off, I completely forgot to leave half the weaving cane undyed. So I had to use another batch of undyed cane, which was a slightly different shade (you can see this in the photo below).
Then I added too many spokes too soon, forgetting that they had to be a minimum distance apart of 2cm at the border. So I had to undo a large chunk of weaving to remove spokes I had added, to insert them at a slower rate.
Still, the platter made progress.
We finished off with a few rows of waling to hold everything in place before adding the border. Here I sneaked in a bit of the pistachio cane I’d dyed for the samples.
It was a big learning curve but I’m pleased with the final result.
I think it could be interesting to do a monochrome version using undyed cane (all the same colour!) and just dark blue – what do you think?