Basket weaving (also basketry or basket making) is the process of weaving or sewing pliable materials into three-dimensional artifacts, such as baskets, mats, mesh bags or even furniture. Craftspeople and artists specialized in making baskets may be known as basket makers and basket weavers. Basket weaving is also a rural craft.
Basketry is made from a variety of fibrous or pliable materials—anything that will bend and form a shape. Examples include pine, straw, willow, oak, wisteria, forsythia, vines, stems, animal hair, hide, grasses, thread, and fine wooden splints. There are many applications for basketry, from simple mats to hot air balloon gondolas.
Many Indigenous peoples are renowned for their basket-weaving techniques.
While basket weaving is one of the widest spread crafts in the history of any human civilization, it is hard to say just how old the craft is, because natural materials like wood, grass, and animal remains decay naturally and constantly. So without proper preservation, much of the history of basket making has been lost and is simply speculated upon.
The earliest reliable evidence for basket weaving technology in the Middle East comes from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic phases of Tell Sabi Abyad II and Çatalhöyük. Although no actual basketry remains were recovered, impressions on floor surfaces and on fragments of bitumen suggest that basketry objects were used for storage and architectural purposes. The extremely well-preserved Early Neolithic ritual cave site of Nahal Hemar yielded thousands of intact perishable artefacts, including basketry containers, fabrics, and various types of cordage. Additional Neolithic basketry impressions have been uncovered at Tell es-Sultan (Jericho), Netiv HaGdud, Beidha, Shir, Tell Sabi Abyad III, Domuztepe, Umm Dabaghiyah, Tell Maghzaliyah, Tepe Sarab, Jarmo, and Ali Kosh.
The oldest known baskets were discovered in Faiyum in upper Egypt and have been carbon dated to between 10,000 and 12,000 years old, earlier than any established dates for archaeological evidence of pottery vessels, which were too heavy and fragile to suit far-ranging hunter-gatherers. The oldest and largest complete basket, discovered in the Negev in the Middle East, dates to 10,500 years old. However, baskets seldom survive, as they are made from perishable materials. The most common evidence of a knowledge of basketry is an imprint of the weave on fragments of clay pots, formed by packing clay on the walls of the basket and firing.
Basketry may be classified into four types:
- Coiled basketry, using grasses, rushes and pine needles
- Plaiting basketry, using materials that are wide and braid-like: palms, yucca or New Zealand flax
- Twining basketry, using materials from roots and tree bark. This is a weaving technique where two or more flexible weaving elements ("weavers") cross each other as they weave through the stiffer radial spokes.
- Wicker and Splint basketry, using materials like reed, cane, willow, oak, and ash
Materials used in basketry
Weaving with rattan core (also known as reed) is one of the more popular techniques being practiced, because it is easily available. It is pliable, and when woven correctly, it is very sturdy. Also, while traditional materials like oak, hickory, and willow might be hard to come by, reed is plentiful and can be cut into any size or shape that might be needed for a pattern. This includes flat reed, which is used for most square baskets; oval reed, which is used for many round baskets; and round reed, which is used to twine; another advantage is that reed can also be dyed easily to look like oak or hickory.
Many types of plants can be used to create baskets: dog rose, honeysuckle, blackberry briars once the thorns have been scraped off and many other creepers. Willow was used for its flexibility and the ease with which it could be grown and harvested. Willow baskets were commonly referred to as wickerwork in England.
Water hyacinth is used as a base material in some areas where the plant has become a serious pest. For example, a group in Ibadan led by Achenyo Idachaba have been creating handicrafts in Nigeria.
Because vines have always been readily accessible and plentiful for weavers, they have been a common choice for basketry purposes. The runners are preferable to the vine stems because they tend to be straighter. Pliable materials like kudzu vine to more rigid, woody vines like bittersweet, grapevine, honeysuckle, wisteria and smokevine are good basket weaving materials. Although many vines are not uniform in shape and size, they can be manipulated and prepared in a way that makes them easily used in traditional and contemporary basketry. Most vines can be split and dried to store until use. Once vines are ready to be used, they can be soaked or boiled to increase pliability.
The type of baskets that reed is used for are most often referred to as "wicker" baskets, though another popular type of weaving known as "twining" is also a technique used in most wicker baskets.
Popular styles of wicker baskets are vast, but some of the more notable styles in the United States are Nantucket Baskets and Williamsburg Baskets. Nantucket Baskets are large and bulky, while Williamsburg Baskets can be any size, so long as the two sides of the basket bow out slightly and get larger as it is weaved up.
The parts of a basket are the base, the side walls, and the rim. A basket may also have a lid, handle, or embellishments.
Most baskets begin with a base. The base can either be woven with reed or wooden. A wooden base can come in many shapes to make a wide variety of shapes of baskets. The "static" pieces of the work are laid down first. In a round basket, they are referred to as "spokes"; in other shapes, they are called "stakes" or "staves". Then the "weavers" are used to fill in the sides of a basket.
A wide variety of patterns can be made by changing the size, colour, or placement of a certain style of weave. To achieve a multi-coloured effect, aboriginal artists first dye the twine and then weave the twines together in complex patterns.
Basketry around the world
Chinese bamboo weaving, Taiwanese bamboo weaving, Japanese bamboo weaving and Korean bamboo weaving go back centuries. Bamboo is the prime material for making all sorts of baskets, since it is the main material that is available and suitable for basketry. Other materials that may be used are ratan and hemp palm.
Southeast Asia has thousands of sophisticated forms of indigenous basketry produce, many of which use ethnic-endemic techniques. Materials used vary considerably, depending on the ethnic group and the basket art intended to be made. Bamboo, grass, banana, reeds, and trees are common mediums.
Basketry is a traditional practice across the Pacific islands of Polynesia. It uses natural materials like pandanus, coconut fibre, hibiscus fibre, and New Zealand flax according to local custom. Baskets are used for food and general storage, carrying personal goods, and fishing.
The fibre basketry of the Gunditjmara people is noted as a cultural tradition, in the World Heritage Listing of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in western Victoria, Australia, used for carrying the short-finned eels that were farmed by the people in an extensive aquaculture system.
Native American Basketry
This section needs additional citations for verification. (July 2021)
Native Americans traditionally make their baskets from the materials available locally.
Arctic and Subarctic
Arctic and Subarctic tribes use sea grasses for basketry. At the dawn of the 20th century, Inupiaq men began weaving baskets from baleen, a substance derived from whale jaws, and incorporating walrus ivory and whale bone in basketry.
In New England, they weave baskets from Swamp Ash. The wood is peeled off a felled log in strips, following the growth rings of the tree. Maine and Great Lakes tribes use black ash splints. They also weave baskets from sweet grass, as do Canadian tribes. Birchbark is used throughout the Subarctic, by a wide range of tribes from Dene to Ojibwa to Mi'kmaq. Birchbark baskets are often embellished with dyed porcupine quills. Some of the more notable styles are Nantucket Baskets and Williamsburg Baskets. Nantucket Baskets are large and bulky, while Williamsburg Baskets can be any size, so long as the two sides of the basket bow out slightly and get larger as it is woven up.
Southeastern tribes, such as the Atakapa, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chitimacha, traditionally use split river cane for basketry. A particularly difficult technique for which these tribes are known is double-weave or double-wall basketry, in which each basketry is formed by an interior and exterior wall seamlessly woven together. Doubleweave, although rare, is still practiced today, for instance by Mike Dart (Cherokee Nation).
Northwestern tribes use spruce root, cedar bark, and swampgrass. Ceremonial basketry hats are particularly valued by Northeast tribes and are worn today at potlatches. Traditionally, women wove basketry hats, and men painted designs on them. Delores Churchill is a Haida from Alaska who began weaving in a time when Haida basketry was in decline, but she and others have ensured it will continue by teaching the next generation.
Californian and Great Basin
Indigenous peoples of California and Great Basin are known for their basketry skills. Coiled baskets are particularly common, woven from sumac, yucca, willow, and basket rush. The works by Californian basket makers include many pieces in museums.
- Elsie Allen (Pomo people)
- Mary Knight Benson (Pomo people)
- William Ralganal Benson (Pomo people)
- Carrie Bethel (Mono Lake Paiute)
- Loren Bommelyn (Tolowa)
- Nellie Charlie (Mono Lake Paiute/Kucadikadi)
- Louisa Keyser "Dat So La Lee" (Washoe people) is arguably the most famous Native American weaver.
- Lena Frank Dick (1889-1965) (Washoe people) followed behind Keyser by one generation, and her baskets were frequently mistaken for Keyser's.
- L. Frank (Tongva-Acagchemem)
- Mabel McKay (Pomo people)
- Essie Pinola Parrish (Kashaya-Pomo)
- Lucy Telles (Mono Lake Paiute - Kucadikadi)
Other North American Basketry
- Matt Tommey is a North American artist who weaves sculptural baskets out of kudzu.
- Mary Jackson is a world-famous African-American sweetgrass basket weaver. In 2008, she was named a MacArthur Fellow for her basket weaving.
Wolof baskets are a coil basket created by the Wolof tribe of Senegal. These baskets is considered a women's craft, which have been passed across generations. The Wolof baskets were traditionally made by using thin cuts of palm frond and a thick grass called njodax; however contemporary Wolof baskets often incorporate plastic as a replacement for the palm fronds and/or re-use of discarded prayer mat materials. These baskets are strong and used for laundry hampers, planters, bowls, rugs, and more.
Zulu baskets are a traditional craft in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa and were used for utilitarian purposes including holding water, beer, or food; the baskets can take many months to weave. Starting in the late 1960s, Zulu basketry was a dying art form due to the introduction of tin and plastic water containers. Kjell Lofroth, a Swedish minister living in South Africa, noticed a decline in the local crafts, and after a drought in the KwaZulu-Natal province and he formed the Vukani Arts Association (English: wake up and get going) to financially support single women and their families. In this time period of the late 1960s, only three elderly women knew the craft of Zulu basket weaving but because of the Vukani Arts Association they taught others and revived the art. Beauty Ngxongo is the most renowned living Zulu basket weaver.
Zulu telephone wire baskets are a contemporary craft. These are often brightly colored baskets and made with telephone wire (sometimes from a recycled source), which is a substitute for native grasses.
- Native American basket weavers
- Basketry of Mexico
- Elizabeth Hickox
- Fully feathered basket
- Pecos Classification
- Underwater basket weaving
- Willow Man
- Easter basket
- Verhoeven, M. (2000). "The small finds". In Verhoeven, M.; Akkermans, P.M.M.G. (eds.). Tell Sabi Abyad II: The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B Settlement. Leiden and Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut. pp. 91–122.
- Wendrich, W.; Ryan, P. (2012). "Phytoliths and basketry materials at Çatalhöyük (Turkey): timelines of growth, harvest and objects life histories". Paléorient. 38 (38.1–2): 55–63. doi:10.3406/paleo.2012.5458.
- Schick, T. (1988). Bar-Yosef, O.; Alon, D. (eds.). "Nahal Hemar Cave: Basketry, Cordage and Fabrics". 'Atiqot. 18: 31–43.
- Crowfoot, E. (1982). "Textiles, Matting and Basketry". In Kenyon, K. (ed.). Excavations at Jericho IV. British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. pp. 546–550.
- Kirkbride, D. (1967). "Beidha 1965: An Interim Report". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 99 (1): 5–13. doi:10.1179/peq.19188.8.131.52.
- Nieuwenhuyse, O.P.; Bartl, K.; Berghuijs, K.; Vogelsang-Eastwood, G.M. (2012). "The cord-impressed pottery from the Late Neolithic Northern Levant: Case-study Shir (Syria)". Paléorient. 38 (38): 65–77. doi:10.3406/paleo.2012.5459.
- Duistermaat, K. (1996). "The seals and sealings". In Akkermans, P.M.M.G. (ed.). Tell Sabi Abyad: The Late Neolithic Settlement. Leiden and Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut. pp. 339–401.
- Bader, N.O. (1993). "Tell Maghzaliyah. An Early Neolithic Site in Northern Iraq". In Yoffee, N.; Clark, J.J. (eds.). Early Stages in the Evolution of Mesopotamion Civilization. Soviet Excavations in Northern Iraq. London and Tucson: University of Arizona Press. pp. 7–40.
- Kirkbride, D. (1972). "Umm Dabaghiyah 1971: A preliminary report". Iraq. 34 (34): 3–15. doi:10.2307/4199926. JSTOR 4199926.
- Broman Morales, V. (1990). "Figurines and other clay objects from Sarab and Cayönü". In Braidwood, L.S.; Braidwood, R.J.; Howe, B.; Reed, C.A.; Watson, P.J. (eds.). Prehistoric Archaeology Along the Zagros Flanks. Chicago: Oriental Institute Publications. pp. 369–426.
- Adovasio, J.M. (1975). "The Textile and Basketry Impressions from Jarmo". Paléorient. 3 (3): 223–230. doi:10.3406/paleo.1975.4198.
- Hole, F.K.V.; Neely, J. (1969). Prehistory and Human Ecology of the Deh Luran Plain. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.
- Erdly, Catherine. "History". Basket Weaving. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
- Diamond, Jared M. (2005). Guns, Germs, and Steel : The fates of human societies. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. p. 261. ISBN 978-0-393-06131-4.
Nomadic hunter-gatherers are limited to technology that can be carried....You can’t be burdened with pottery and printing presses as you shift camp....For example, the earliest attested precursors of ceramics are fired clay figurines made in the area of modern Czechoslovakia 27,000 years ago, long before the oldest known fired clay vessels (from Japan 14,000 years ago)....the oldest known basket appears around 13,000 years ago
- "Oldest woven basket in the world found in Israel, dates back 10,000 years". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
- Lynch, Kate. "From cradle to grave: willows and basketmaking in Somerset". BBC. Retrieved 2008-05-09.
- Seymour, John (1984). The Forgotten Arts A practical guide to traditional skills. Angus & Robertson Publishers. p. 54. ISBN 0-207-15007-9.
- How I turned a deadly plant into a thriving business, Achenyo Idachaba, TED, May 2015, Retrieved 29 February 2016
- Philippine basketry: an appreciation, RF Lane - 1986
- Basketry Weaves and Bau-Malay Earthenware Pottery in Southeast Asia. WG Solheim II - Hukay, 2005
- Weaving traditions from Island Southeast Asia: Historical Context and Etnobotanical knowledge. D Novellino, 2006
- "About weaving". Maningrida. 1 March 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
- "History of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander textiles". archive.maas.museum. 9 April 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
- Mills, Vanessa (21 July 2011). "Weaving magical baskets and sharing Aboriginal knowledge". ABC Kimberley. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
- "Ngarrindjeri basket weaving". Sustainable Communities SA. 24 August 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
- "Budj Bim Cultural Landscape". UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
- Cherokee basketry artist to be featured at Coffeyville gathering. News from Indian Country. 2008 (retrieved 23 May 2009)
- "Washoe Basket Weavers | ONE". www.onlinenevada.org. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
- "Weaving Kudzu into Art". Garden & Gun. 2016-11-28. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
- "A Lowcountry Legend: Mary Jackson". Garden & Gun. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
- Sallah, Tijan M. (1995-12-15). Wolof: (Senegal). The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-8239-1987-1.
- Nevins, Debbie; Berg, Elizabeth; Wan, Ruth (2018-07-15). Senegal. Cavendish Square Publishing, LLC. p. 101. ISBN 978-1-5026-3642-3.
- "Lidded Basket ca. 1990". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2022-03-29.
- Strickland, Carol (2012-12-13). "How Basketry Preserved a People". Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 2022-03-29.
- Chemaly, Tracy Lynn (July 7, 2021). "Beauty Ngxongo: Woven in Time". TLmagazine. Retrieved 2022-03-29.
- Arment, David; Fick-Jordan, Marisa; Cerino, Andrew (2005). Wired: contemporary Zulu telephone-wire baskets. S/C Editions. p. 49.
- Blanchard, M. M. (1928) The Basketry Book. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons
- Bobart, H. H. (1936) Basket Work through the Ages. London: Oxford University Press
- Okey, Thomas (1930) A Basketful of Memories: an autobiographical sketch. London: J. M. Dent
- Okey, Thomas (1912) An Introduction to the Art of Basket-making. (Pitman's Handwork Series.) London: Pitman
- Wright, Dorothy (1959) Baskets and Basketry. London: B. T. Batsford
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Basketry.|
|Wikisource has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article about basket weaving.|
- California Indian Basketweavers Association
- The National Basketry Organization
- The Book of English Trades, and Library of the Useful Arts, page 17-22
- Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. V. 1/4, page 132-135
- Spons' Workshop: Basket hand-making
- Native Paths: American Indian Art from the Collection of Charles and Valerie Diker, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (available as PDF), with material on basket weaving