Making a basket is probably the oldest weaving method that goes back thousands of years. Young branches and strong grasses were used to make small handy baskets for hunting, fishing, carrying, and storing items. Weaving baskets was a quick way to produce the tool when needed and with materials available nearby. Over the centuries, making process and materials became more sophisticated and designs more intricate.
The baskets are not just to be used as a tool and for daily practical usage, but they became beautifully designed objects, proud possession of households, no matter how poor or rich. Around the world, in very different cultures such as Native Americans, African tribes or India, various styles and designs were created with equal skill and beauty.
Basketry today is strong as ever. Looking back in the past for the inspiration and guidance, today’s basketry artists introducing new materials and techniques. There are three contemporary artists whose approach to the basketry weaving is very different and unique, which is a great legacy for the future.
Joe Hogan is an Irish artist who has been making baskets since 1978. His baskets are robust and strong, made of natural willows which he grows at Loch na Fooey, the lake where he lives. Gradually, he started to incorporate more unorthodox materials into his baskets, such as bark, wood, and stones.
Dorothea Reese-Heim is a textile artist from Germany, whos work spanning from art books, paperwork, outdoor installations and sculptures, metalwork, PVC basketry… She is open to different materials and likes to experiment with shapes and forms. However, the line is what is a basic point for her artwork. Dorothea says, “In relation the free line within space I am interested in different types of materials. For example, I use technical textile in order to create a new identity of the idea and the material. This means that the continued existence of certain materials is synonymous with of other media, be it paper, in photography, in videos, films or installations. Artistic realization does not have to be bound to a specific medium. Depending on the observer’s imagination and perspective the conceptual approaches that I show reveal artistic transformations which demonstrate liberation from the conventional, canonical materials and forms. It is about lightness, transparency and balance. Material and technique become means of expression, carriers of ideas and philosophical designs. Thus, they deliver testimonies of a thinking and working process.” (read a full interview here)
Kari Lønning is an American basketmaker, workshop lecturer and author. She is starting to weave her baskets back in 1970s and since then she developed her own contemporary style. Though the roots of her basket designs are clearly in the past, she developed a soft geometric pattern that can be compared with ikat weaving in textiles. Kari usually works with rattan reed, dyed in fabric dyes. Her baskets are part of many important collections in the USA (White House Collection of American Craft, Washington, DC, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, TX, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN…). Multi-element twining was used to achieve vertical and spiral patterns and a form of tapestry weaving to get patches of color. Encaustic medium (beeswax and damar resin) has been melted into the surface of the non-textural baskets. To achieve the hairy baskets hundreds of short pieces of reed have been woven into the walls of the baskets.