Saturday, 26 May 2012

you are what you weave

interlaced willow, brambles and flowers on lattice base

I was very lucky earlier this week to be able to mix my interest in weaving with gardening and foraging, when I took a group of university students to Stave Hill, an ecological park close to the river in South East London.  I knew they’d be wowed by the park, and its spectacular 360’ panoramic view of London.

twined  blackthorn, willow and dogwood

We came with as little as a cutting tool and some twine, then proceeded to source materials to weave with from plants around us, using the park as a studio for the day. The great thing about ecological gardens is that they are man made and so designed to sustain human intervention, unlike nature reserves.  At the right time of year, with permission from gardeners and site managers, they are a fantastic place to source materials to work with.  It is well into spring here in the UK and is nesting season too, so not particularly the best time to forage.  Mid summer or early autumn would be better when brambles and bindweed desperately need cutting back. We nevertheless found plenty of plants to work with – apple and cherry suckers, dogwood, willow, hops, creeping roses...  A good number of species we found were edible too, as well as being good to weave with, such as alexanders, angelica, nettles, goosegrass and garlic mustard. 


goosegrass (or cleavers)

alexanders stems with cordage and twined basket (bindweed and willow)

So we twined the sunny afternoon away, and then collected some more materials for supper.  On hindsight, we might have saved ourselves time and effort by making a basket entirely from edible materials which could later be dropped into a pot of boiling stock, and then hey presto, soup’s made!  That is a sure recipe for my next book, and it also leaves me wondering, is this the reason basketry instructions are traditionally called ‘recipes’?

twined blackthorn, dogwood, and willow

stripped willow and bark

willow, day lilies and bindweed

our materials

Friday, 18 May 2012

bigger basket better

the materials

the model

the site

the outcome
For more info and ideas on assembled basketry, see last chapter in Practical Basketry Techniques.

Friday, 11 May 2012

on the wall and off again...

Moribund Mural (Creeper's Delight), 2006
salt dough, size variable

‘Not interested if it doesn't hang on a wall’ seem to be my thinking at the moment.  I’m a traitor to my profession!  Sorting out images of wall pieces I have made in the last few years and uploading them on new pages on my website could have contributed to this.  Another reason might be my recent visit to the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane to see the Contemporary Australia: Women exhibition, where a great number of large scale installations commissioned by the museum were relying on wall space.  In their upstairs galleries, a top class display of traditional and contemporary dilly bags and bicornual baskets hang on the walls, their open woven structures casting delicate and intricate sideway shadows.  How can anyone in their right mind knock the sanctity of the white walled gallery space?

Yesterday I went to the opening of Collect, London’s contemporary art fair for contemporary objects and most of the works in their curated project space was wall based.  I was also really drawn to displays at Dutch Galerie Ra and Galerie Marzee, and last but not least Caroline Andrin’s works at the Belgian gallery WCC-BF, one of which I am the proud owner of since then. Andrin’s latest series of works consist of animal trophy like ceramic pieces, made using leather gloves as moulds.  The results are gorgeously dark, humorous and playful wall pieces. So, well done Benelux! Then again, I might be biased given I was born and raised in the lowlands myself. 

Praising wall displays as I have, I have to set the record straight by saying how spectacular Raw Craft was, an exhibition within Collect curated by the Crafts Council with designer Michael Marriott and Brent Dzekciorius, head of retail operations at auction house Phillips de Pury & Company.  Showcasing contemporary furniture, the works were quite naturally floor standing.  Still, am curious to see how the show would have looked had the curators laid their hands on a few shaker hooks...  

Sweet Graffiti / Big Bang, 2007
royal icing, sweet, hundreds and thousands, size variable (detail)

Knitting Piece #13 (South Hill Park), 2006
wool, 3.5m x 3.5m

Molecule #1 (bobbin lace), 2009
found image, card, thread, pins on foam

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

suburban backyard studio

I spent the last three weeks in the Sydney suburbs with my brother and his family. Wanting to keep my niece and nephew entertained while also keeping up with my production of dailymades, which I started last November, I found myself collecting green waste to weave with on my way to and from their favourite ‘jungle gym’ and local parkland. Attuned to foraging for materials for basketry in urban areas since writing my book Practical Basketry Techniques, I realised that Sydney gardens and parks, rather unsurprisingly, are abundant with the most fantastic range and diversity of plants to work with.

Talking about my backyard weaving endeavours to Lily Katakouzinos and Lindie Ward from the Powerhouse Museum, who I worked with on Sydney Design and the Love Lace exhibition last year, the idea of planning an open garden event/exhibition came about. This would have me create a number of sculptural woven interventions, using plant materials at hand, in private and/or public gardens throughout the city. With its climate and rich mix of native and imported sub tropical vegetation, Sydney must be one of the best places on earth for such a project. So thank you Lily for suggesting this and Lindie for your further thoughts and support with this project.

Kai collecting stringy bark
stingy bark eucalyptus
clematis and stringy bark
more eucalyptus bark
Back to the backyard meanwhile, here are a few images of the things the kids and I made using mainly stringy bark and palm tree leaves, some of which have also been posted on dailymades.

'dilly bag' inspired plaited stringy bark basket
plaited stringy bark
palm leaf sheath bowl
plaited palm leaf sheath basket
Mary tying sticks together
moulded plastic chair with woven back
woven trolley basket (stringy bark and string)
Kai helping marking out space for weaving
woven play area (sticks and twined palm tree leaves)