Any garden-lover will understand the deep personal connection we have with plants and gardens. Gardens are therapeutic, fulfilling our spiritual needs on a most fundamental level. They feed us and provide places for interaction with nature, yet there is more. Through the eyes of a basket-maker our gardens yield a wonderful and seemingly endless array and supply of materials. To the basket-maker, gardening has the added dimension of exploration. We are constantly on the lookout for plant materials that in themselves often provide a wonderful source of inspiration for our creations; vines with interesting tendrils, lichen encrusted twigs and leaf blades that have fascinating colours at their base – purples in Kniphofia spp., pinks in Iris spp. and the dramatic orange horns of Dracaena draco. These can be used to great effect in projects that are as individual as their creators.
Who would have thought that fallen Pine needles and Jacaranda leaf stalks, Corn husks, and leaves from Daylilies and Kangaroo Paws could all be crafted into beautiful, useful objects? We are foragers, always looking for potential in our gardens, always appreciative of nature’s bounty. Plants that are usually unceremoniously cut back and thrown on the compost heap are treasured by the basket-maker: lovingly harvested at just the right time of year, dried and stored for later use. Even weedy plants like Watsonia delight us – take a closer look and you’ll notice the lovely yellow stripe running along the margins of the leaf blade. Harvesting these leaves once they have turned brown will reward you with a stunning russet-coloured weaving material which makes a beautiful basket on its own, or can be used with other plant materials as a highlight.
Correct preparation of basketry material is essential as it will ensure maximum strength and reduce problems with loose weaving due to shrinkage. Strappy leaves are left to dry out completely, which may take months, and then dampened before use so the leaves are flexible enough to be twisted and pulled without breaking.
Once started, the pursuit of basket-making will hook you in and before long you’ll be collecting materials and making presents for everyone. It’s a delightfully relaxing, creative avenue for self-expression. It deepens our understanding and respect for the environment through the very tactile approach demanded by this craft. There is something extremely rewarding about being involved in the whole process, starting with nurturing your growing plants, harvesting and storing them, and finally creating something beautifully unique.
So when you come to the Plant Craft Cottage, have a close look at the wonderful baskets our members have made and if you happen to buy one of our baskets, you’ll appreciate just how much has gone into making it. Let us inspire you to make your very own treasures. Come and join us in basketry at the Plant Craft Cottage
on the third Wednesday of every month 10.30 am - 2.00 pm.
Lydia Beshara, Basketry Group Co-ordinator