Makers and materials

  • Lavere weaving, Papua New Guinea

    Lavere weaving, Papua New Guinea

Behind every basket is a basket maker, the man or woman who determined its form, chose and often prepared the materials. The status of basket makers varies enormously; even today some remain anonymous while others are widely celebrated. This exhibition includes work across this range as well as baskets collected directly from their makers by scholars who have fostered a close relationship with them.

Basketry requires the acquisition and careful preparation of materials. Where plant fibres are chosen, selection criteria can include the maturity, colour and calibre of the stems to achieve the desired results. The plants may be found in the wild, but especially where large-scale production is concerned it is necessary to cultivate them in quantity to sustain the industry. Basketry materials are crops and treated as such.

The material is rarely in a ready-to-use state. Once gathered it has to be cleaned and prepared using various techniques. These may include cutting, scraping, splitting, soaking, shredding and bleaching. Weavers usually size their materials so that the dimensions are uniform, a meticulous and time-consuming task necessary to ensure the regular and consistent appearance of the finished product. There are many tools used to aid preparation. Some are specially devised modern machines, but in most cultures traditional methods remain the norm for small-scale production.

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