Nests and webs

  • Song thrush nest

    Song thrush nest

The development of basketry as inspired by nature is deeply rooted and emphasises the interrelationships of art, nature, and human culture. It seems that people learned the forms, functions and processes of basketry by observing the behaviour of other creatures. The nests constructed by small mammals or birds, webs and cocoons made by insects, have more in common with basketry than anything in the culture of our evolutionary relatives among the apes.

It is noticeable that many of the techniques used by birds in nest building have basketry equivalents. These include the coiling of fibres in an upward spiral, and 'stitching' materials together with long strands, as weaver birds do. Some nests are thick and impermeable, whilst others have very open structures that allow water and air to pass through them easily. Like humans, some birds are ready to experiment with unfamiliar materials, even recycling human rubbish. Nests may have been appropriated by humans as one of the earliest forms of containers, most obviously for carrying a clutch of eggs.

Fascination with spiders and their webs is widespread in human culture and myth. The common arrangement of spokes and concentric rings is adapted to form one-way entrances in fish traps from many different parts of the world.

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