From harvesting materials, to completing a vessel that you have made with your own hands using ancient techniques, basketry is a meditative, intuitive, and grounding experience. Creating a basket is a way to pay tribute to plants and the natural land from which our materials are gathered.
Whether making a coiled basket from leaves and grasses, or twining with spruce roots, we are given an opportunity to get to know a plant and acknowledge it for all of its qualities. As we learn to work with the material, we can appreciate its flexibility and versatility. When that material begins to form a vessel we are creating a unique piece of art that will have a purpose in our lives. Each moment spent weaving, we are infusing our baskets with meaning and sprituality, making them more than just a utilitarian object.
The creation of baskets was an integral part of all of our ancestor’s lives and when we are able to make space in our own lives to follow in this tradition, a connection is forged between the past and the present. At the same time we are able to cultivate the connection and honor for natural world from which our materials are gathered. How beautiful!
Several weeks ago at our Wild Earth Coiled Basketry Workshop, led by myself and Sheena Heinitz, attendants of workshop were able to spend a day feeling those connections. The action of gathering materials, processing them, and weaving becomes even more powerful when it occurs with a crucial element: community. Gathered as a group during the workshop, we found a flow and rhythm through technique of coiling that connected us to our roots.
In the workshop we used natural materials such as sedges, grasses, cattail leaves, iris, bamboo, and cornhusks that were gathered in our local area. As the materials soaked in sleds and plastic bins, we discussed what everyone’s relationships to baskets were, what brought them to the workshop, and how to go about beginning a basket!
As we began our demo of how to create a coiled basket, Sheena and I were thrilled to see so much interest in the biology aspect of what we were doing. What type of plants are good to use for baskets? Where do they grow? How can they be harvested in a way that promotes the patch of plants to thrive instead of injuring it?
We discussed how intuition and creativity are very helpful when embarking into the world of basketry— if the plant material looks long, flexible, and strong, then just go for it! It is amazing what can happen when you explore and create with no restraints. Seasonality is also an important aspect to consider. In the fall and early winter after the plant have gone to seed is an excellent time to look for plants to create baskets from, as opposed to the spring when the plants are just starting to grow. We then delved into how to store, soak, and prepare materials for creating a basket, and began teaching the coiling technique itself. Everyone who attended the workshop left with the knowledge, ability, and enthusiasm to continue making baskets in the future.
As everyone chose materials and developed their baskets, it was meaningful to me that each person approached it differently. The same material options gave way to a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and colors of baskets. Some were precise and tightly patterned, while others were shaggy and free. All of the baskets created were so lovely, and each person’s beautiful qualities shined through in the type of basket they made. As we sung songs and talked as a community, both Sheena and I were honored to be able to share one of our greatest passions with others: creating baskets that celebrate both our beautiful human selves and the earth’s bountiful plant life.
After growing up in central Pennsylvania, spending four years rock climbing and traveling across the country like it was my job, and studying art at two different colleges I have finally found a home in the Hudson Valley of New York! Although I still have a serious passion for travel and exploration I am excited to be establishing myself in this beautiful region and dedicating as much time and energy as possible to my career as an artist and to spending time in nature. More about Katie's work.