Basketry Craft

By Charles Hopkins Published 12/8/2013 | Crafts

A tisket, a tasket, A green and yellow basket . . . and red, blue and every other, not to mention fiber, imaginable.

Basketry is no longer a traditional craft done only by the Indians -- although they still do some of the finest work around. Basket making has become an art revived and practiced by a growing number of artisans. More and more people are collecting baskets.

As Dona Meilach and Dee Menagh wrote in their book "Basketry Today" (Crown Publishers, 1979). "Baskets have not fallen prey to mass-production methods as have most products in our culture . . . no one has yet devised a mechanical substitute for the nimble fingers that weave, coil, plaint and twine natural materials into the myriad utilitarian shapes devised for the necessities of living."

A wide variety of baskets in all shapes and dyes -- from imported commercial hampers to sculptural fiber pieces - are available now in many stores and galleries.

In basket making craft, three principles are important:

Artistic, meaning that good design qualities should be exhibited;
Decorative, meaning that beauty should be a concern; and
Practical, meaning that purpose and function must also be considered

There are also three basic basket techniques used all over the world: twining, coiling, and plaiting or weaving.

Most of the present-day basket makers use twining and a variety of plaiting techniques. Animals are often featured as subject matter. Carved wooden shapes serve as molds so the form can be maintained and technicians can weave around these forms, adding carved legs, beaks, or traditional handles. Animal baskets display an uncanny resemblance to the particular animal's character by capturing the natural expression of its movements with a whimsical flair.

Everyone works together to design and to develop an idea. No one individual produces a basket from start to finish in the factories, but rather various individuals work in an assembly-line manner to jointly make a basket.

Women generally do the weaving process, while men do the preparation work of the raw bamboo or grass materials, and other individuals prepare the baskets for finishing and shipping.

In many countries the artist is prized as a unique person who develops new concepts and ideas to display individual style. In China, for instance, the 'artist' represents the state. The quality of his or her work reflects on the country, not on the individual - and so it is with Chinese basketry.

The Mississippi basket makers use more traditional materials for their baskets such as white oak, river cane and pinestraw (used in the Victorian days for ladies' fancywork). Others use a wider range of materials in their contemporary pieces: split white oak, grapewines, rattan, birch bark, honeysuckle, willow walnut and shuro palm. Still others, uses all natural materials, often collecting various grasses, vines and twigs for her baskets.

Baskets made in Japan are generally made of twisted bamboo with the edge of each reed bleached white. Others are a series of lacquered bamboo baskets with a reed base, tin liner and bent twigs for the handle, especially well-suited for ikebana, Japanese flower arranging.