Short History of Traditional Crafts
Chapter title – Basket-Making History
Many historians think that the art of basket-making is as old as civilization. There is no way of knowing, as baskets are made from materials that decompose, so archeological evidence of their origin is absent. Much of the evidence archeologists do have is from the impressions on clay shards from clay pots, indicating that potters used baskets as molds for their pots and as liners. These baskets left imprints on the pots after firing. The oldest evidence we have of baskets dates back 10,000 to 12,000 years. People used the art of basket making for many things. Warriors used wickerwork shields in ancient times, babies slept in wickerwork cribs and people lined baskets with clay to make them waterproof. Since merchants used baskets to transport trade goods from region to region, people in far regions would study the basket’s construction, and then adapt the techniques learned to their own baskets. Thus, basket making technology spread from region to region, making identification of differing construction methods difficult.
Not all baskets have every part listed here, however these terms are common to the craft of basket making.
Basket making is practiced all over the world, in every climate and environment. Basket makers use a wide variety of materials to make their baskets. These include:
General Process of Basket Making
Baskets come in a wide variety of types, shapes, sizes and materials. Construction methods vary according to any of these parameters, however most baskets follow similar construction methods. Before construction begins the basket maker does any painting, dying or soaking of materials to make them flexible as necessary. The artisan begins with the base, as it will determine the size of the basket. If the finished basket has a wood bottom, the basket maker cuts it to size and drills any necessary holes. For a wicker bottom, the artisan lays out the spokes. The spokes can serve as the sides. In this case, the basket maker cuts the spokes long enough so they can be bent up. Once the spokes have been laid out, the weavers are woven between them. If the bottom spokes have not been used to make the sides, the artisan cuts the side spokes and weaves them into the base perimeter. The side weavers are then woven between the spokes. At the top, a wider strip that serves as the border is assembled and the handle attached.
Please note, this is only a general description of the basket making process and not intended to be instructions on basket making.
Basket makers categorize baskets into four main types:
Baskets made using grasses and rushes by coiling the fibers around in a spiral pattern and stitching the fibers together. The resulting basket resembles a coiled snake.
Basket makers use materials that are wide and braid like palm, yucca or New Zealand flax leaves. They weave these materials together in a distinctive pattern.
Using materials from roots and tree bark, twining is a weaving technique where two or more flexible weaving elements cross each other as they weave through the stiffer radial spokes.
Wicker and Splint
Using reed, cane, willow, oak, and ash branches, the basket maker weaves the flexible material over and under a stiff foundation of rods or bundles of fiber.
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