A few years ago Flora read Jed Pearl’s article The Artesinal Urge in American Craft and found the suitable name for her fibre affliction. She has had the desire/need/drive to make things since she was a little girl. The magic of art is in the making.
What is a basket? – a container, woven, with a handle and/or lid. They were utilitarian but recently basketry has changed. Ancient techniques are used with non traditional materials like plastic bags. Some baskets are purely sculptural pieces. Baskets can start with vine, cane, leaves to make a 3 dimensional shape. No two will be the same unlike mass produced merchandise. Uniqueness creates anxiety in some people. Creative spirits cannot make a mark on the world unless they have made a mark on their materials. It has taken a while for basketry to be accepted as Art and to loose the occupational therapy and utilitarian flavour.
Flora, a primary school teacher, learned to make baskets in workshop at the Royal Botanic Gardens given by Virginia Kaiser 10 years ago. The participants continued to meet in each other’s houses. Last year they formalised their group, Basketry NSW Inc, and meet at Primrose Park in Cremorne. Basketry days are usually the first Sunday and second Friday of each month, from 11 am to 4 pm. These basketry days are open to non-members who can make a casual visit for $10. BYO basketry project to work on, lunch and snacks. No RSVP is required to attend, but visitors should arrive before 2 pm as the centre may close early if attendance is low.
Flora harvests materials mostly from her garden including:
- coral pea vine – very flexible when wet and deep brown
- Bangalow palm stalks – dry on tree, drop ready to weave. Soak in warm water half hour. Dye well. Great texture
- Bangalow leaf sheaths – Soak for a day. Lovely colour. Can sew, embellish and shape.
- Ivy, wisteria, red hot poker, Aunt Eliza leaves.
Materials are stored in a dry, airy place wrapped in newspaper or hung in coils. Her husband restored an old electric copper for her to dye bulky items. She uses Landscape dyes since Dylon has become hard to find.
Flora uses all basketry techniques but prefers the stake and strand weaving using cane for the uprights and twinning eg 3 rod whaling to give a strong, tight weave. All her baskets have names to commemorate places visited, exhibition themes or movies seen. She sells and exhibits them.
Every two years she goes to the Basket Gathering, which has workshops, speakers and traders for 3-4 days. The next Basketry Gathering will be held at Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, in 2015. She will run a workshop in the Botanic Gardens next year. Flora strives to make beautiful shapes. The fruit of an artisanal urge to make a little bit of magic with her hands.