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...