After an almost two year pause in the basketry program at the Bainbridge Artisans Resource Network (BARN) due to the covid pandemic, I was honored to be able to contribute to this program by teaching a Weaving Nature Workshop this Fall.
Many volunteers besides myself have worked hard to build a Basketry program at BARN, which began it’s programs offsite in 2014. Deb Sweet, Sybil Carrere, Caroline Cooley Brown, Amy Weber, Fran Fuller, Catherine Camp, Kathey Ervin, and Jo Hart, are just a few of the dedicated volunteers who helped grow this program. Recently, thanks to Cyndy Holtz, Basketry is up and running again with a slate of excellent teachers. Also, on the third Tuesday of each month from 10:00-2:00, a basket weavers group now meets regularly at the BARN Fiberart Studio to work on projects and help each other. This group has met for years at Jo & George Hart’s Seabeck home. We are grateful to Jo and George, who before their recent move to Kentucky, made a home for a community of basket makers at BARN. All are welcome. I believe there is a $10 drop in fee for non-BARN members.
Here’s a recap of our two day workshop in September, through the few pictures I took. I’m grateful I had this opportunity to share two days with these wonderful, knowledgable students. Many came from far away just to learn more about gathering, preparing, curing, storing, and utilizing plant fibers. We built small ribbed gift baskets as our project. As always, I received much more than I gave. Here’s a snap-shot.
First off – I’m so grateful to my husband, Paul, who tirelessly worked all spring and summer removing the invasive Himalayan blackberry by the little valley stream, so we could easily walk in this forest of Alder, Vine Maple, and Swamp Dogwood, to gather invasive English Ivy and Native Wild blackberry vines, the limbs of Pacific Willow, Swamp Dogwood, and Western Red Cedar, and the interesting stems of Equistem hymale (scouring rush).
I’m grateful to Debora, who on this first drippy, misty morning in months, jumped right in to help by wiping down all the wet chairs set up outside for our introductions.
My gratitude to Carita, for digging up and dividing her Siberian Iris bulbs and generously bringing me the most beautiful Siberian Iris plants for my garden. This is one of my favorite long-leaf materials for making cordage, and the plants like to be dug up and divided every few years, depending upon the conditions in which they grow. It’s apparent that Carita has a green thumb, and now I will think of her every fall when I harvest the leaves and seed stalks.
I’m grateful to Beverly for making the effort to peal all her Rhubarb before making the most delicious Rhubarb-Ginger Preserves, which she generously shared! I only wish I got a picture of the beautiful length of cordage she made out of the peals and woven into her Ribbed Basket.
I’m grateful to Cindy for putting in the extra hours to boil the ivy she collected. She pealed the ivy and make two hoops with it by wrapping the ivy around itself until it was strong enough to become a handle and a rim. Like most vines, the boiling makes them more flexible and easier to remove the bark by simply rubbing the vines through a rag or old towel once they are cooled. The ivy becomes white and would be able to take a dye color if that was of interest. I wonder if Cindy will use the last of the invasive, but abundant, Himalayan Blackberry juices as a dye for her boiled ivy?
Safety Note: If you do cook materials, be sure to do this in a well ventilated area. I used to boil materials on a single burner outside in a pot dedicated to plant materials. But lately, I use a crock-pot outside, starting with hot water and set on high for 4 hours. This set-up works well for breaking down fibers for papermaking too.
I’m grateful to Shakti for introducing the idea of ribbed construction being adapted for sculptural work. Any time we learn new ways to connect materials together we are essential making armatures for structures, on which we can create surfaces and possible design-work. Today we connected hoops with lashings and formed a rigid frame that more flexible materials are woven around. I wonder what forms Shakti will be making next with her assorted branch and long-leaf collection?
I’m sorry I didn’t get pictures of every student as they were weaving, but an instructor rarely gets the time to snap photos. So here let me express my gratitude for those I’ve not yet mentioned. I’m grateful to Ellen, who stretched herself from loom weaving to learn this more sculptural rustic form of weaving. She also led the charge in a thorough clean up of the Fiberart Studio.
My thanks to Hannah, who invested her time away from her young family to learn more ways to utilize the plants she grows and knows so much about already. Already she experimented with getting the bast fibers from Jerusalem Artichoke stems to make cordage, using techniques similar to how we got the bast fibers from Fireweed and Nettle stems. I was also excited to see that she had made a lovely Hen Basket using boiled Honeysuckle vines, and had used Scotch Broom to make a lovely coiled basket. I have a feeling Hannah will be making beautiful Wild Harvest Baskets for collecting foods and fruits from her garden.
Safety Note: I forgot to warn everyone that Scotch Broom does have an oil in it that can cause skin burns. It is photo-toxic, much like Fig Bark, so please do eradicate and use this invasive plant with gloves and with caution about skin contact.
I’m grateful that Erin, who is co-teaching an upcoming Cedar Bark Basket Workshop at BARN, October 22 & 23, came to gather and share knowledge us all. She brought in the most beautiful Common Witches Hair Lichen (Alectoria sarmentosa) from the forests where she lives, which she wove right into her basket. Over time, it will be interesting to find out if the lichen becomes brittle and crumbles away, or if it keeps it’s thread-like structure. It definitely looked good and added interesting texture and lovely light green color. My thanks to Erin for helping to bring the “Better Together Basket Making Open Weave 3rd Tuesdays” at BARN.https://classes.bainbridgebarn.org/event-4667767
I’m thankful for Jennifer, who brought in lots of great materials from home to try out. I loved that she went for the Red Osier Dogwood handle which had so much character.
I’m especially grateful to Cyndy Holtz who assisted me with this workshop and is running the Basketry Program at BARN. Please be sure to contact her through the BARN website if you have any questions about the program or if you might like to teach a Basketry workshop.
The instructor’s finished examples of ribbed baskets
I’m grateful to be a part of this continuum of knowledge at BARN. Traditional basket making requires three things. Living teachers willing to share their knowledge; living ecosystems where Native plants can grow; and living students who take the time to learn and then help others know.
Thank you for listening!