Monday, 30 June 2014

Averil Otiv suggests some preparation work for her soft basketry course

Each of the Summer School tutors has been asked to share something to whet your appetite for their 2015 course(s). Leading the way is Averil Otiv (in her own words and sharing a stunning picture of her own work).

About my influences:

I usually work from nature, both in materials used and form and shapes created.For example, I often make vessels that might contain something such as seed pods.Usually small intimate shapes for storage. I also like the challenge of seeing if a material will create a particular shape or bend through a particular angle etc.

Sometimes when out walking or cycling I will stop for a bite to eat and create a little vessel or container from materials within a few metres radius of my position. I started doing this many years ago as a frequent visitor to Lundy Island and some of the Islands off the Pembrokshire coast. Not much of size grows there, but I found a lovely dwarf willow, not more than 50 cm high at max. and a number of other dwarf species resulting from the exposed conditions of these islands.

I think good technique is essential in most things but especially in 3D work . As weavers many of you will be familiar with the techniques offered but perhaps not worked in 3D or with raw, unprocessed plant materials. For example, have you ever crocheted with daffodil leaves, or made a lace bag with salt rush or perhaps a twill pouch in willow bark ? The preparation is key.

About the plant materials I use

They almost all need to be gathered in advance and dried. This reduces the shrinkage in the finished article and resulting disappointing holes or looseness that were unplanned! If you are planning to make baskets in 2015 here is some advice about gathering materials to use.
  • I collect red hot poker, day lilies and Iris siberica leaves from September onwards. They are cut at the base of the clump and then spread out on newspaper to dry. Turn them every few days and when dry roll up in the paper, tie and label each roll.
  • The husks of sweet corn are a joy to use, making lovely white cordage . Just dry as above, a friendly green grocer will usually give you bits remaining in the boxes of corn at the end of the day.
  • New Zealand Flax is good for some techniques and has its own unique method of preparation . It must be used fresh and will keep in a bucket of water for a few weeks until you are ready to use it. Cut leaves from the base of the plant, not all from one place to spread the damage.
  • Pine needles are also fun to use.Select brown ones from a dead branch, not off the forest floor. The longer needled pines are best.
As a general rule, if the plant material will wrap easily around the wrist when green it should be suitable.

You might like to create a pod or vessel either on or sprouting out of a piece of drift wood or create something inside an existing shape. There's lots of scope for the imagination.

I will provide as much of the materials as I can but you might want to bring plant material specifically from your own garden , or perhaps a neighbours. I find local parks and gardens are often happy for you to tidy up their herbaceous borders in the autumn!

Above all, the course is meant to be fun and interesting! The process of soft basketry have certainly kept me busy for many years already and more ideas develop as time goes on .......