Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Getting Ready for Convention!

Well, it is that time again - NCBA Convention is just around the corner! I am dashing around, trying to get everything ready. My mother comes to stay with the kids, and I am trying to get the house in order, in addition to gathering all my goods. Are you ready for convention? It's going to be amazing, as always! If you have never been, why not take a virtual visit through the NCBA Photos page?

One thing I am doing this year that i have not had to do in the past is to care for my etsy shop.

My MakeABasket etsy shop contained almost 4oo pottery bases for coiled baskets until this afternoon...when i started removing some to take to Teacher's Marketplace with me. (That's me at Teacher's Marketplace last year, at left, and a previous year, below.) It is crazyville! I cannot bring them all! I wish i could, but the table they assign us (only one per teacher) is about 2 feet by 6 feet, and the pottery pieces have to lay flat to allow them to be seen. So i can only bring SOME. I have removed what i am bringing from my shop, so if you visit MakeABasket.etsy.com and see something you want to see in person at convention, please email me to tell me what it is so i can bring it. Everything i am bringing has already been taken out of the shop. If it does not sell, it will return after convention (March 11-14.)

I also have some brand new bases and designs that will debut at convention, so even if you have seen everything in my shop, don't forget to stop by and look around!

Thanks again for your support, i really appreciate it!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Shaping Coiled Baskets: 9

Learning to change shape takes practice on the part of the basketmaker. One must practice. In one of our exchanges on the Pine Needle Group, I practiced following the edge of this rippled salad bowl as a base, I coiled with bleached, processed yucca. (I apologize to those who may have tried to look at this exchange - the Recycled Wooden Implement Exchange - photo page before, the code was wrong and I just corrected it.) As another aside, Donna had told me she could not find the photos for the Mask exchange. I hope i have fixed that now, too.

When I want to change the shape, it is easiest for ME to follow the base angle, and put the needle in perpendicular to the angle of the base. This is why I make pottery bases with changes on their edges.

Learning to shape takes time and usually effort on the To help signal me where to change the shape, I often use the sheath ends of the pine needles. I usually put the sheaths on the side of the basket that I want to shape away from. If I want the basket to flair outwards, I put the sheath ends on the front of the coil. If I want the basket to move upwards, I put the sheath ends on the outside of the coil. This helps me to remember where to place my needle (above the sheath) and aids in keeping consistent needle angle. You might notice the pine needle sheaths on the outside of this basket, EXCEPT where the basket flairs outwards and down. There, the sheath ends are on the inside of the basket. My signal. now you know. (click on the photo at left to see closer)

If the sheath of the pine needle is placed appropriately, it is more difficult to shape the side incorrectly, as the pine needle sheath is in the way. All I have to do is continue to place my needle above the sheath of the pine needle, not to cover it with the coil.

There are other ways to shape baskets differently. We have mentioned inserting shaped items, and using floating coils.

Have you ever tried varying coil size? Building a thicker coil in one area of the basket will allow it to build faster. Though needles can be cut from or added to a coil, I have found it is often less work to insert a rod where I want to increase my coil. A piece of round reed, paper rush, dry vine, or fabric may be inserted into the center of the coil, and completely faced with pine needles (or whatever the core material is.) The length of the rod can be precut, if necessary, or left long until it is no longer needed. The ends are most easily inserted if tapered, and it is better if the terminal end can also be tapered. Cutting abruptly CAN cause a “bump” in the coil that is weak and can cause pine needles to break or stress around the cut end of the rod. I commonly use rods inserted into the coil in my multifiber baskets, like the pink elephant one at left. In soft bundle baskets, such as this, if the end of the rod is cut straight, it is possible for the end to stick through the core in the finished basket.

Back to the triangular basket...this is the best i have ever done. And I "cheated." I made the slightly triangular shape by moving the coil to the opposite side of the basket (front or back) to stress the corner, and coiled inward at some points so as not to change the outside shape of the basket. It was couched in some places....i suppose that is another alternative technique. There are so many. Does anyone else have another one to share with us?


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Shaping Coiled Baskets: 8

On with our series on shaping....The easiest, and really the funnest (I know that is a real word, but I like it!) is the asymmetrical basket. This is done by bringing the sides of the basket up at different points, or thickening your coil on different points of the basket.

Going back to that Progressive Exchange…my assignment was to coil a basket base for Jeannie Williams.

Well, Jeannie makes perfectly symmetrical baskets…I have seen plenty of them, over the years, in her gallery. I wanted to make something to challenge Jeannie, and I admit, I was just a little worried that my regular base would not be symmetrical enough for her. So I am afraid I sent her something completely different, a basket that was “crooked.” One side wrapped upwards, and the other stayed flat. Surely, I thought, she will have to make something without symmetry when I sent THAT to her. WRONG! Jeannie did an amazing thing…she turned that asymmetrical basket into a wall pocket…she cut the line of symmetry the other way. WOW. That is really creative. My hat is off to you, Jeannie. You'll have to go visit the Progressive Exchange link to see my basket start and what Jeannie did with it!

Not long after that, Judy Mallow started teaching “Reach In” baskets (which I like to think Jeannie’s basket was the inspiration for…it may be true, and then again, it may not be. Basket at left is NOT by Judy Mallow, it is by me!) The “Reach In” basket, as taught by Judy, has one side of the basket wrapping upwards, and the other side shaped outwards. This allows for you to toss in change, or whatever, and allow it to collect on one side, and yet has a shallow side that your hand easily reaches into. Sort of like a scallop seashell. This is the easiest (I think) sort of basket to begin to learn to shape asymmetrically.

The challenge of making a basket like this is remembering WHERE to turn your basket upwards, and WHERE to keep it flat. Judy uses little bits of tape to mark spots on the basketbase to keep track of where the shaping should begin. I have other tricks, which i will share later.

The time-tested way to make differently shaped baskets is to insert objects to coil around, as in teneriffe forms. But people still usually add them symmetrically, and come out with a symmetrical basket. Kay Burlason is a master at this. (Click on Kay's name to see more of her baskets.) She inserts all sorts of teneriffe wires to make the basket flair. This is one way to make a basket change shape...though Kay's are generally perfectly symmetrical. That's one of her fabulous baskets at right.

Tracy Deniszczuk wrote me to tell me how she does it: “As far as shaping goes, if I want the piece to go into a particular shape I create that shape by adding 18 gauge copper wire into the pine needle core to give it more flexibility and strength. Once the wire is in, I can shape that coil any way that I choose.” That's Tracy's "Spirit Cradle 2" at left.

Many other fabulous coilers use this method, including the amazing Flor Bosch. (Flor's Basket at right.)

Check out the baskets of Viola Pace Knudsen.

What do you do to change the shape of your basket?

You may have visited my MakeABasket etsy shop and noticed a some of the bases have notations in their descriptions that some of the edges of the base are upturned, which aid in building an asymmetrical basket. You probably thought that poor Pamela just had not figured out yet how to make a flat base…well, I admit, the clay is a little feisty. And in order to make an entirely flat base, and guarantee a flat base, extra time and attention must be paid to the base, and so it takes longer ….but that is not ME cutting corners making all those bases funky and “awry.” It is meant to be that way!

Those little upturned sections on the pottery bases signal: Here is a place to move upwards! Build vertically (or outwards at an angle) at this point. Try it sometime, and see what happens! You may surprise yourself.

I would love for more people to step out of the tradition and try to make a funky, asymmetrical basket! A basket that undulates surprises the viewer. They are interesting and intriguing and oh so ALIVE! It is like seeing a basket move! This is part of what I have striven for in my botanical series of twined baskets, a woven form with lots of motion!

The next post will give suggestions and tips on shaping an asymmetrical basket, my way...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Shaping Coiled Baskets: 7

Thanks so much to all who have commented. I am so excited that Vincent and Tony both are itching to make square baskets now. I am sure their endeavors will be wonderful. I hope they will share them with us! (please?) Anyone else planning a cornered basket?

Moving on in the topic of shaping coiled baskets....

Have you seen coiled effigies? They are very cool! We have had a few effigies in our Pine Needle Exchange. Check out Terrance McArthur’s huge pine needle fish (from PN Exchange # 2)

Or Nella Johnson’s turtle effigy in exchange #10

There are lots of other extreme shaped baskets in the Pine Needle
Check them out!

Most effigies, in addition to requiring extreme shaping, also have added elements, legs, heads, etc. These are sometimes added onto an already coiled shape (couched on,) or made by splitting the coil at the point of addition. Splitting the coil, and letting two part diverge, coil into two separate parts of the basket, is easier, in my opinion, than adding a whole separate coil.

Coiling elaborate shapes brings many challenges, not the least of which is support. In order for pine needles to arc around tiny curves, they generally have to be very flexible, which usually means they have to be soaked (or glycerinized?) This sometimes means getting them to bear weight is a real issue.

Just ask Lynn Hoyt about her trials getting this giraffe from The Effigy Exchange to hold his head up and stand on his thin little legs (not to mention the round and round and round coiling in that tiny space for such a long distance!) What a fabulous job she did on her giraffe! You can see she used stitcks to reinforce the extremities (the cute little hooves give it away,) but as i recall, the difficulty was really making the legs attach to the base without wobbling all over the place.

In effigy coiling, It is usually easier to build a complete internal support system or armature around which to coil.

One of my very early pine needle sculptures was a huge mushroom. I wanted to give a little elf a place to sit. The cap of the mushroom simply would not stay on the stem. This was a very early piece, i must say, only a few months after i first started coiling. I was very happy with the shaping, including an indention where my little doll would sit. But the thing was floppy! I tried waxing and all sorts of creative stitching. I finally just put skewers down through it from the top. I think i could do a much better job if i took on the project now, but the FIRST thing i would begin with would be an armature.

Here is an example of the difference (in twined figural sculpture)
sculpture without armature
sculpture with armature

Just to remind you, here is TV McArthur's amazing "fur" pine needle coat again, because i am just enamored with and amazed by it!

Next blogpost we will talk about free shaping, and asymmetrical baskets, what i think is the most fun of all! Please leave your comment for everyone to read.



Thursday, February 4, 2010

Shaping Coiled Baskets: 6

Thanks to Von and to Waterrose, who commented on my last blogpost. Have you seen Rose's etsy shop? She makes really gorgeous, delicate looking embroidered wearables and home decor items, including embroidered cuff kits so you can try it yourself! Great idea, worth checking out!

In my opinion, the hardest not-round basket is the square. OMG, (that is "oh my gosh," for those of you who are NOT fluent in computer –ese, or whatever you call that stuff) I cannot even begin to describe the challenges to keeping FOUR corners square…FOUR sides even! But Judy Mallow did it. I know, because I OWN a basket where she did. Here it is.

I have not seen another one like it, perhaps it was a challenge even for her! Not only did she make it square, she carried the corners up over the side and made a little rim. Amazing. Beautiful. (Care to comment, Judy?)

Again, the easiest way to do this is to insert something at four places in your basket. The trick after that is to keep your coil consistent and MAKE A SHARP CORNER each time you go around it. I am not even going to start on going up the sides. This is really a challenge, and I would not want to tackle making a symmetrical square basket, even with 12 years of coiling under my belt. Way to go, Judy! Check out more of Judy's fabulous baskets at PrimPines.com . As this blog entry is posted, she has another triangle basket and a star-shaped bsaket in her gallery.

I would love to hear your thoughts on making square baskets. Please leave a comment (click #comments just below this post to go to the comment page.) ON to the next post.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Shaping Coiled Baskets: 5

Thanks to everyone who continues to follow this series, and leave comments for us! I especially appreciate the coilers who have shared images of their baskets with me. As previously, these baskets are borrowed from The Pine Needle Group website, where they all have been published with permission.

Did you ever notice all the things that “want” to be rounded? If you have ever made a basket with corners, you will know how challenging it can be to retain them. Woven baskets trend towards round; when plaiting, a “square to round” basket is much easier for a beginner (in my opinion) than a square one…even though the beginning is (hopefully) a perfect square. But a coiled basket especially “wants” to be a perfect round shape, because it is built on a spiral, and each successive coil smooths out any pointed angles. Sharp corners are just “not natural.”

So, knowing that, have you ever tried to make a basket that is NOT round? I have to confess, this is one of the things that suggests to me someone is progressing in their coiling…the readiness to make a basket that is “not just round.” How do you do that? I have seen triangular baskets, square baskets, all sorts of shapes like effigies, and asymmetrical baskets. I have to tell you, I have TRIED to make triangular baskets, square baskets, and asymmetrical baskets, with widely varying succes.

The triangle is difficult…but can be done. The easiest thing to do to make a triangle is to coil in an object (nutslice?) at three equidistant points on the basket. This immediately renders a triangular basket. The trick, thereafter, is to KEEP it triangular. (Triangular basket at right by Judy Mallow)

I remember a BEAUTIFUL triangular basket that Susan Cowell began in one of our early exchanges…by using three round pieces put together (at left.) Ingenious! It made a wonderful little triangle with equal sides. I was very impressed with this idea. This was the Progressive Exchange, where one person started the basket, then sent it to another person (with some materials.)

The second person was supposed to finish the basket THEIR OWN WAY and then send the completed basket on to a third coiler. What a great exchange that was! I learned so much! I wanted to make that a triangular basket…but I learned I could not maintain the corners appropriately. After awhile, I just stopped trying, and added my own “flair” to the basket. And you can see the result on that exchange page.

As I said before, the easiest way to consistently make a triangular basket is to insert something (a nutslice? Beads? Teneriffe form?) on three spots in your basket and don’t coil much afterwards…Judy Mallow shows these in her books, From Forest Floor to Finished Project. That is one of the reasons why John Moore's yellow triangular basket shown here impresses me. He has maintained his corners without such aids, and even coiled sides that still maintain the shape of a triangle! (Where are you, John?)

I would love to hear your thoughts on making triangular baskets, or see your own three sided baskets!

Please leave a comment (click #comments just below this post to go to the comment page.)

The next post, I will talk about coiling the square basket.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Exhibition: 23rd Annual Materials: Hard & Soft

23rd Annual Materials: Hard & Soft Juror: Jo Lauria The Meadows Gallery The Center for the Visual Arts Denton, Texas http://www.dentonarts.com 400 East Hickory Denton, TX 940.382.2787 February 6-April 1, 2010 Opening Reception: February 5, 2010, 7pm – 9pm
Recognition of Awards: 7:45 pm
Hors d’oeuvres and Spirits served

Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 1-5pm
This event is free and open to the public.

I am absolutely delighted to announce that my piece Amorphophallus Textillus is included in this exhibition. This is a large twined sculpture, based on a pottery strip. The piece is twined of paper rush and other fibers, and resembles a large flower. The Amorphophallus flowers are also sometimes called carrion flowers, and are known for their very showy large blooms.

Please see my facebook fan page for photos.

I hope you can attend!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Shaping Coiled Baskets: 4

Thanks to everyone who commented on this series so far. Particular thanks to Donna for sharing her diagram.

So, how does needle angle enter into this? In order to pin your logs into the correct position, pay attention to the angle of your sewing needle. The needle needs to be perpendicular to the angle of the wall. Pretend you stack your log, one on top of the other, and then drive a pin through the top one and into the bottom one. If you are going to hold the log in place with only one pin, it has to enter the “top” of the log (which may be off at an angle) and go through the lower log. The needle angle needs to make a “T” cross with that pin’s angle. In fact, if you want to drive a “T” pin into your basket coil, and try to reflect the angle of the cross on the top of the “t,” you will have angled your needle perfectly. (if you don't understand the "T" reference, go back to Donna's diagrams, yesterday!)

Control of your needle angle can help you make the perfect shape – or the perfectly different one!

Some different things to try for shapes you want…these are all things I have tried in the past with varying degrees of success, but have left them by the wayside and shape just with needle angle now…

1. cut the shape of your basket (in profile) from a piece of cardboard. As you coil, stop and set the whole basket into the cardboard cutout to see where the next coil should go. Push the coil into place, hold it, and then stitch with the other hand.

2. Get a coil of clay going, and shape it the way you want your basket to shape. This gives you a visual idea of where to put the next coil.

3. Use a bowl the shape and side you want your basket bottom to be to help shape it. As you coil, stop and press the basket into the bowl, and use the side of the bowl to guide where to place the next coil.

Any other ideas for aids to shaping baskets? Please post in comments. The next post will be about making different shaped baskets, like the star by Flor Bosch, at right. Isn't she clever?

To find all the posts in this series, please click on the label "shaping," below.