basketry

Basketry feels like the gateway craft, or at least it was for me.  Go wander around and gather some things, assemble them in various ways, then put stuff inside.  What could be more basic, and more useful?  Our lives are full of containers.

I learned basketry from various people and places, but really got going on it in Guatemala.  I wanted to see what people lived like without middle-class American affluence, which was all I had ever known, and I wanted to learn how to make baskets.  So I thought I’d just go to Guatemala and try to meet basketmakers, and then learn from them.  Which is what I did.

My first teacher was a 16 year-old boy, Antonio, who lived in Santa Clara la Laguna, a traditional basketmaking village.  His family made their living by making market baskets from canaveral, a cane plant that grows like a weed all around the village.  He had been making baskets with his family since he was six years old.  My second was a family of bamboo basketmakers in a village closer to the coast.  I lived in their dirt-floored, gap walled house for two weeks, taught the kids english, and watched a mix of Animal Planet and Gangster B-Movies with them every evening.  Finally, I made coiled palm leaf baskets with a teenage girl in a remote adobe home at the end of a lime-rock road.  It wasn’t really appropriate for me to be sitting with her, an unmarried girl, so our classes only lasted two days.  When her boyfriend showed up, her mom snuck me out the back gate and that was it.

Since then, I have made baskets from black ash, various types of bark, willows, pine needles, and so on.

 

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Birch Bark mukuk
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Peeling birch bark.
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Impromptu baskets made during a canoe building workshop by Steve Cayard in Maine. Mine is up front, my friend Ian's and Steve's behind.
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