Basketry: The Art of Willow Craft

Book review by Lise Bech

In 2007 Peter Juriga, a Slovak graphic designer and basketmaker published the book ‘Kosikarstvo’,- the culmination of many years of learning, practicing and writing about basketry. The book was of such a high standard that the Slovak Ministry of Education made it recommended reading.

Many of us would have rejoiced in this level of achievement and left it at that, – but not Peter. He wanted it translated into English. He happened to meet NBO member Katherine Lewis at the World Festival of Wicker and Basketry in Poland, enrolled her assistance and allied himself with an international group of English speaking makers who were willing to help (and a professional translator). I agreed to edit the two pages of basket anatomy and terminology – which was more challenging than I had anticipated – and had virtually forgotten all about it when a weighty A4 hardback tome arrived at my door.

“Basketry, the Art of Willow Craft” is instantly impressive with over 1100 illustrations on its 250 pages. The first chapter covers the history of traditional basketry in Slovakia with many most interesting illustrations showing both forms unique to this country, including some agricultural screens and walls, as well as techniques generally seen all over Europe eg Madeira and Frame baskets. The final chapters bring us up to date with what is happening in basketry today showing examples professional makers and attempts to keep the craft up to date.

Chapters on sourcing willow from the wild, cultivation, harvesting and willow preparation follow. I am particularly grateful for the attention given to how-to-test-unknown-willow’s-suitability-for-basketry, which happens to rhyme with my own procedure (!!) but I am not aware of seeing it in print before and so well illustrated.

Now at page 60 we are raring to get started. And the reader gets a lot of help! This book is characterized by its copious step-by-step illustrations throughout. As a teacher you are sometimes stuck for explanatory words and ” Watch my hands” – to quote Colin Manthorpe – becomes the shorthand for a lot of words. Peter has taken the trouble and hundreds of photographs to describe each stage, step by step, both in words and illustrations – all clearly labeled in the text with numbered weavers, red arrows and the occasional line drawing, making this a book to have in the workshop (and it stays open on the page you want). In addition many pages have a sections highlighted in green with extra tips/information, often quoting professional makers.

As a way of illustrating this, the willow weaver will appreciate that after 30+ images have been used to get the base as far as having opened up the slath sticks (2 sets of pairing/twining), Peter proceeds with another 30 photos to take us through completing the base in French randing…. starting with butts! This appears to be the traditional way and whilst I am glad not to have to teach it, I was particularly interested to see this as it explained why Peter needed an English term for the slath with just 2 sets of pairers/twiners having been woven. What would I call it? I called it ‘the spider’ or ‘the sun’ but these seem very 21stC terms and not at all traditional let alone correct!

Peter perseveres in this detailed fashion through oval and square work to lids, handles, bottle covering to the more exotic but traditional mid European whips. Having covered the various techniques, a recipe section sets the reader up well to succeed with precise numbers/sizes of rods needed for a range of baskets. Another section covers how to mend accidents and repair baskets.

I did not in all fairness try any of the instructions out myself but when I get a chance I look forward to trying out the mid European upset using the stakes and /or inserting a waler in each space not to mention ‘speed randing’.  I lent the book to a keen beginner who upon returning it commented: “It explains and shows clearly and in the best way the magic of basketmaking.”

From a north European point of view it is interesting to note that English randing is not used at all while many versions of French randing are described. The prevalence of using green willow is a bit confusing and I had to chuckle when my favourite shopper handle herringbone finish was described as ‘showy’.

This book is a stunning achievement bearing witness to the author’s love and knowledge of basketry, his graphic design skills and sense of dedication to record and promote his craft. To the English speaking audience it is in addition a tour (de force) of the craft in another country – not that far away but enough for it to be different and one might feel that the title should have included ‘…. in Slovakia’.

With this proviso I can highly recommend the book to makers of all levels.

The book is available from The Basket Maker’s Catalog

Contact the book’s author at Peter Juriga 

 

Danielle Bodine in “Terrain: Exploring a Common Ground”

NBO member Danielle Bodine is exhibiting her sculptures along with other artists in the show “Terrain: Exploring a Common Ground” at MUSEO Gallery for the month of October.

Please join the artists for the opening reception Saturday, October 6, 5-7pm.

The show runs through October 29, 2018, at the Museo Gallery in Langley, Washington.

Above: Floating Islands, 11”Hx26”Wx8”D , Mulberry papers cast on basket, removed and reformed, then painted, collaged, Embellished with coiled wax linen sculptures. Plastic top, wires. 2018. Photo credit: Michael Stadler

Canastromania: Or How Basket Fever Transformed American Basketry from 1890 to 1940

Kristin Schwain, co-curator of “Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America” presents a lecture and slideshow, “Canastromania: Or How Basket Fever Transformed American Basketry from 1890 to 1940.” The event took place at the Whatcomb Museum in Bellingham, Washington, during the still-touring “RRR” exhibition. For dates and locations of this exhibit, visit Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America

 

 

Pat Hickman – “Art Baskets: Breaking Boundaries” Event Lecture

Shown above: “Akin”, (detail), Pat Hickman and David Soo. Photo by George Potanovic, Jr.

 

Pat Hickman gives the closing lecture for All Things Considered IX: Basketry in the 21st Century, presented by the National Basketry Organization at the Society of Arts + Crafts in Boston, Massachusetts. Pat recounts the evolution of basketry as an art form through the work of four pioneering basket-weavers, her own cohort of boundary breakers and her life-long friends. She gives a touching tribute to these individuals, emphasizing the critical roles they played in shaping basketry in the 21st century.

Danielle Bodine at MUSEO Gallery

NBO member Danielle Bodine will be exhibiting her fiber sculptures at MUSEO Gallery for the month of August.

Please join the artists for the opening reception Saturday, August 4, 5-7pm.

The show runs through August 26, 2018.

Above: 

Photo Credit: Michael Stadler. The Wild Hares  (Grouping 24”Wx25”Hx12”D) Mulberry papers cast on coiled baskets, painted, collaged, and embellished with “tongs” and other objects. 2018

NBO Members in HGA’s “Small Expressions” Exhibit

Above from left: “Sierra Rock” by Nancy Briemle, “Off Balance” and “Paint Brush One” by Peggy Wiedemann. Click on images for detail.

 

Small Expressions is an annual, international, juried exhibit featuring high quality, contemporary small-scale works. Small Expressions is sponsored by the Handweavers Guild of America, Inc., to showcase small scale works created using fiber techniques in any media, not to exceed 15 inches (38 cm).

NBO exhibiting artists include Nancy Briemle of Pleasanton, California, and Peggy Wiedemann of Huntington Beach, California. The exhibition will take place at the Wilbur May Museum in Reno, Nevada, and run from July 1 to July 15, 2018.

More information at Wilbur May Museum

 

NBO in Cuba!

NBO is partnering with Peters Valley School of Craft to offer a one-of-a-kind trip to CUBA, November 10-17 2018. We invite you to join this adventure, specifically designed to allow you to experience the arts, crafts, and culture of this unique island nation at a historic time of change.

This is a seven-night tour was conceived in partnership with Cuba Educational Travel, a leading organizer of group travel to the island. Together we’ve created a special program taking us from electrifying Havana to charming and quaint Trinidad and back. Isolated from U.S. influence for 50+ years, Cuba developed its own vibrant artistic traditions, often constrained by limited access to materials yet emboldened by the innovative spirit of the Cuban people to chart their own artistic course. This will be the second time that Peters Valley will be taking a group on this fantastic journey, and the National Basketry Organization is thrilled to be able to offer our members and friends a chance to join them!

 

Detailed itinerary here:  CUBA Itinerary – November 2018

Terms, dates, and registration information here: Registration form NBO-NOV2018

Dorothy Gill Barnes at the de Young Museum

Five works by NBO member and 2015 NBO Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Dorothy Gill Barnes are currently on display in the Art of Craft Gallery at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California.

“These vessels are created with bark in Barnes iconic style where the natural quality of the bark on the tree is maintained as a part of the artist’s visual statement, “honoring the growing things from which they come.”

All photos courtesy of de Young Museum

Jean Poythress Koon in Multiple Exhibitions

NBO member Jean Poythress Koon has shared the news of multiple exhibitions where her work has appeared or is currently showing. Shown above, “A Copper Fly Trap”, will be appearing in the third annual “Excellence in Fibers” juried exhibit presented by Fiber Art Now at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles in San Jose California, from October 19, 2018 – January 13, 2019.  The piece is constructed with pine needles coiled in an elongated oval which spirals on its own accord, then sewn with waxed linen thread and clad with 1/4-inch copper strips which were colored with a butane torch. The zipper is  attached with straight pins.

“Nest” -6” diameter. Pine needles coiled with waxed linen thread. Armature is covered with 1/4” strips of brass foil using stainless steel straight pins. Paper mache egg covered, copper foil strips. Appearing in HGA’s “Great Basin” exhibition in July of 2018.

“Steam Teapot,” featured in the recent Craft Alliance Center of America’s biennial exhibition “identiTEA”.

 

Pat Moritz “Painted Desert”

NBO member Pat Moritz’s work ”Painted Desert” will appear the international juried Great Basin Basketry exhibit as part of the Handweavers Guild of America 2018 Convergence in Reno, Nevada. This exhibit features functional and non-functional, traditional and non-traditional forms employing basketry techniques. The exhibit takes place during the HGA Conference from July 6 – 12, 2018 at the Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nevada.

“Painted Desert” – 6 1/2” x 10 1/2” and is coiled using pine needles and waxed linen thread. Pat’s focus was to create movement, tranquility and elegance while accentuating the colors of the stone. (Click here for full-size image and detail)