Wednesday, November 18, 2009

15. Three Considerations for Faster, Easier Coiling Post 15

Thanks so much to Jeannie and Donna for their comments on the last post.

We are almost finished with this series, but i must address the use of “starts."

Starting a basket from nothing, or making a button, can be time consuming. Many people today have never made their own basket start. Though button-building is something I think every basketmaker should definitely learn, the use of prepared, commercial starts is a wonderful way for novice basketmakers to be introduced to coiling.

Because button-making is challenging, it is not optimal as the first lesson a student must learn. Historically, apprentices a huge amount of time observing and doing menial tasks before being allowed to try their hand at a craft. Today’s students walk into a class with a desire to make something, and the expectation that it will be made quickly and with little anguish. For these students, it is better to build proficiency in handling pine needles and understanding the basic processes of coiling, the mechanics of how the basket is built, BEFORE the student attempts a button start. Once competence is achieved at maintaining coil size, adding materials (binder and core) and basic stitching, it is easier to turn to the complexities of making a basket out of “thin air,” that is turning a pile of pine needles and thread into a basket. So for speed and ease of use, I recommend use of a basketry start for beginners.

When learning to make a button basket, or a basket "from nothing," i have found the best way to learn to make a button is to focus on only that skill. Work on the button ONLY, until the technique is mastered. A student with several successful baskets under her belt will be more able to focus on the task at hand, without worrying about "what comes next." When i teach this skill, allot 2 hours, and encourage students to make at least 2 buttons AFTER they feel like they have mastered the technique. This provides the added bonus of having three baskets "ready to coil."

I would love to hear how you feel about making buttons and using basketry starts. Next post will be on different kinds of prepared basketry starts. Please leave a positive comment here for everyone to read! Thanks


Deb Groom said...

I am having a lot of fun with the possibilities for baskets centers. I make some of mine out of polymer clay, or agates in resin. One of my favourites (just sold it) was an old broach that has a lot of loops along the edge. I took my colours cues for dyeing my needles from the center. I added beads to my cording as the basket bottom grew and the lines spiralled out.
Right now I'm dyeing needles to go with some cogs and wheels to create an industrial looking basket.
I agree that you need to master the button and I think that allowing for non-traditional starts just increases our creative options.
Thanks for the great topics,
Deborah Groom

J. Anthony Stubblefield said...

Hmmm, I guess nobody ever told me that starting a coiled basket was supposed to be hard. I just have always done it "from thin air". Even when I have taught a few classes we started with a button. Maybe I am doing something wrong! I have actually been less satisfied with my starts using a walnut slice or wooden disc. I guess I just like the organic look of the basket springing forth from the materials.


Annejala said...

I am still very new to making baskets. I agree with Tony. I like to start my basket from the pine needles. I was taught to start baskets by making a knot from the pine needles. When I was first introduced to pine needle baskets it was the natural look of the baskets that caught my attention. I like a traditional basket and a basket made from nature's discards. The baskets with the different centers are beautiful and are very colorful but I like the plain centers the best. Angela

Donna in WA said...

If I am not starting out a basket by coiling around something, like a wooden base or a rock slab, I use a knotted beginning. I take 5 or 6 pine needles that have been soaked and are still quite pliable but are not dripping wet. Then, I slowly bend them around a pencil so as not to break them. If they break, then I just set them aside and start with different pine needles. The broken pine needles can always be added later.

After the pine needles have been wrapped around the pencil, I hold it in place for several seconds. Then, I use the curled pine needles to make an overhand knot. I try to keep it flat as I can and gently pull it so that the hole is very small and the knot is still flat. Then I start coiling around the knot, gradually adding pine needles until my gauge is no longer slipping.