Basket making is one of the oldest art forms of humans. It has been used since time immemorial for creating baskets of various kinds. The baskets thus created have been used as decorative pieces as well as items for daily use. Basketry covers a wide range of objects from box-like containers to mesh sacks.
They also range in sizes from the ones measuring 3 feet in diameter to the tiny 0.25-feet collectables. Although baskets can be manufactured by machines, the ones woven by hand using natural fibres are high in demand. They usually have distinct tops and bottoms but are essentially continuous surfaces.
Baskets are often used in many cultures to gather, store and serve dry food. Liquids can also be retained in waterproofed baskets. Techniques of basket making are also employed for creating hats, clothes, and mats. In some modern homes, baskets have become a desirable item for decorations.
Nearly all the native people have baskets as a part of their heritage. The way they’re made may differ according to their customs and traditions. The ancient Mesopotamians described baskets as children of the gods and the basis of earth. Their belief about the origin of the world was associated with baskets. According to them, a wicker raft was placed on the oceans with soil spread on it to create landmasses.
Bakers used baskets to store baked loaves of bread in ancient Egypt. The most famous of all baskets was the one in which baby Moses was transported safely. Almost all the ancient civilizations produced baskets. The best examples would be the Roman baskets and the ones made by the ancient Chinese and Japanese. Basketry also gave rise to the art of pottery, as the earliest pots used baskets as moulds.
The archaeologists have observed that the histories of pottery and basketry are interwoven. Many ancient pots unearthed by archaeological excavations showed patterns of baskets used as their moulds. These patterns became pieces of evidence where vegetable fibres didn’t survive the test of time.
Raw materials used
A wide range of plant fibres is used as raw materials for making baskets. They include twigs, grasses, roots, cane, basket willows, and reeds. For the colouring of baskets, hobbyists use vegetable dyes. This is mostly when they’re imitating the historic baskets.
Concentrated cloth dyes are used in manufacturing modern baskets. The ones that need a solid bottom and handles also use wood beside the main item for weaving. Many hobbyists purchase basket-making kits for creating some fantastic baskets.
Raffia and rattan are used mostly as a substitute for grasses and rigid fibres. Raffia is a fibre obtained from the raffia palm, found in some Southeast Asian countries. Rattan is a tropical palm and its stems and leaves are used for making baskets.
The character of every basket is determined by the fibre that’s used for making it. One must get the appropriate fibres to create baskets of certain designs. Usually, fibres are flat, round, or flexible. Flat strips can either be twisted around stiff rods or woven together.
Flexible fibres are wrapped around each other in order to form a coil. To create the sides of the baskets, the coil is stitched to itself in a rising spiral. The designer has to determine which fibre is available and then plan the making of a basket accordingly. Designs of baskets can be based on a sample basket or photos.