2017 got off to a great start with the week long Sturt Summer School, learning basketry with Brooke Munro (www.mrandmrsmunro.com/). Each day a new technique was demonstrated, then we selected from the piles of mainly natural materials Brooke brought in and began to sample.
Monday: Hidden/wrapped coiling.
Raffia was used for both core and wrapping. The sample includes long & short stitch, figure of eight and V stitches. A fringe, also of raffia, was applied while stitching the last round.
Tuesday: Cord-making, knotless netting.
I first learnt cord-making with Lissa de Sailles (19-Mar-2016). Somewhat new to me here was the use of natural plant materials, including reeds and cordyline (I’d done a little in a half day class with Brooke – see 23-Oct-2016). The cord is now part of a later sample, photographed below.
Knotless netting was also included in that earlier class with Brooke. Here I focused on creating a sampler – loop, round, figure of 8, twisted loop – using an inconsistent but overall fine bamboo yarn (on the right in the photo). On the left is a contrast in scale: a little pot using figure of 8 and round looping in a thicker bamboo yarn.
An ongoing fascination in the class was the way personalities came through with us all using the same techniques and selecting from the same materials. No comparison photo unfortunately, but another student and I both experimented with netting in the fine bamboo, both using a pool noodle as a form while working. Mine resulted in a mass of uneven sizing and tension, sprawling. Edith carefully pinned each small stitch, using the noodle like a lace pillow, creating a fairly dense, firm and neat little basket.
Wednesday: Open core coiling.
My first attempt used cordyline as core, and split stitch. It was a penance – constantly stopping to strip down more leaves; the stitching promoting a strong line, which called attention to any unevenness; so, so, so slooooow. Finally some quick stitches, some deliberate loose ends, and it could be called “finished” rather than “abandoned”.
Some thought over lunch led to a second sample. A larger core bundle of material scaled up and speeded the work. The bundle was all long lengths of pre-made cord – consistent size, no preparing or joining of materials. The thread used for stitching still made a visible contribution, but this time through colour. The stitches and the coiling are uneven, gappy, with little nuggets of wrapping. As a final flourish extra lengths of the same materials were added in to create a tassel.
Work was faster, much more enjoyable, focusing on what variation to introduce next rather than locked in to getting it “right”.
Thursday: Random weave
Right from the start random weave was exciting. It felt as if I was drawing around a space, outlining it. The rules were few, the possibilities wide open. We all started working with cane – fairly easy to use, with a spring that sometimes defied my intentions.
I stopped early, not wanting to obscure the space that had been defined. Others kept working, and it was amazing to see how much material could be absorbed into what still appeared to be very open structures.
Wire was calling me. A length of coiled vine provided a basic structure. The result was difficult to photograph, so two versions, each with issues.
Two basket-like areas were added, fitting into the vine. What doesn’t show in the photos, but was important to me, was that only the larger basket and one curve of vine touch the ground. The rest floats lightly.
Friday: Open studio
On the last day of class we could continue samples or start something new. Open core coiling still bothered me, so the clear place to start.
New Zealand flax provided the core – long leaves of fairly consistent width, so easy to make long strips that bundled easily without constant fiddling. A large core to grow fairly quickly, and a ring – no fiddly start. To define the edges I sewed on some of the cord made earlier in the week.
This time the split stitch was more of a pleasure, creating a firm structure and a decorative element. I’ve since bought a number of Phormium (NZ flax), and one day hope to harvest my own materials.
So that’s three variants of open core coiling, the first of which was an horrendous process, the others I like and have potential. The most pleasing thing is actually the process – identifying what wasn’t working, finding some alternatives. Powerful.
In the afternoon Brooke gave a quick demonstration of twining – not a planned part of the course, but she is a natural and generous teacher. Working with a fine, long grass and two colours of the bamboo yarn in a very open way produced an attractive fish form.
At the class show on Saturday morning I was amazed at the range and amount of work we had all produced. It was an exceptional class – a lovely group of women, great tutor, the excellent surrounding organisation and facilities at Sturt… a wonderful experience, and ideas to keep me going for years.
Not all that much has happened in the week since, despite being on holiday. It’s hot and humid in Sydney, so I’ve been moving slowly. Surprising myself, twining rather than random weave has been the technique I’ve continued with.
Following up the “fish” at the end of class, I used “horse hair” black nylon (?) filament and more of the fine bamboo yarn. The work was kept flat, the twining coils open, with patterning produced by crossing the warp (need to check if that’s the right term). The result has a mandala-like appearance, a level of complexity that I like.
The next attempt used 1.57mm tie wire for the warp and a waxed linen thread for the twining. The idea was the materials would provide a lot of stability and structure, allowing for a more decorative use of the twining technique.
From the top the vessel looks open, irregular, mildly interesting.
Add some directional sunshine and the side view is much more exciting.
The final highlight of the week was a day spent with Claire at the Botanic Gardens taking texture photos – although you have to question our decision making going to the Succulent garden (hottest spot in RBGS?) on the hottest day of the week.
Now there’s preparation for the next week of summer school – more next post.