I’m in the mood to make some baskets. The cool fall weather we’ve been having these last couple of weeks is a reminder that it is almost time to harvest the grapevines… and it’s just a given that once I start cutting and coiling grapevines, some serious basket-weaving sessions won’t be far behind.
I actually learned the basics of basket-weaving years ago by attempting to make one of the most difficult types of basket. I had sent away for a kit that advertised “complete and easy to follow instructions” with “enough material to make one basket.” When the kit arrived, I followed the instructions exactly… I measured and wove, and when that didn’t look right, I unwove, remeasured and wove again. Nothing worked. It was a terribly frustrating experience, to say the least. The instructions didn’t seem to make sense.
I didn’t know then that those almost indecipherable instructions were also very incomplete and that the kit did not include all the materials needed to finish the basket. I also did not realize then that most of the problems I was having were because the reed in the kit was old and brittle and almost impossible to work with. Regardless, I kept struggling on… and the funny thing is that despite the frustration, I was already hooked on basket-weaving and absolutely thrilled with the process. Eventually, my perseverance paid off and I started to actually understand basket-weaving… and I just wanted to learn more and make more baskets. I have never lost that feeling… creating a basket ALWAYS makes me feel happy.
All the baskets in these photographs started with two grapevine hoops, or rings, with one ring positioned inside the other. The rings are lashed together at opposite points on the rim with decorative lashings. Ribs are then cut to size and inserted into the lashings to form the shape of the basket. I make the baskets freehand, without measurements or a pattern, and each piece is cut to fit as I weave. For a whimsical touch, I like to incorporate grapevines with curly tendrils into the design if I can. Although I start making a ring with a general idea of the basket size it will create, the curvature of the vines and their flexibility will determine the shape of the basket. I always feel that each basket shapes itself… and all I have to do is let my fingers follow along and fill in the shape that the vine has already determined.
I have made dozens and dozens of baskets, but I don’t think I’ll ever lose that sense of wonder I feel with every basket at the point when the pieces of vine and reed suddenly transform into… a BASKET!
It’s a wonderful thing…