Heather Be Thy Name

Had a go today at making an English basket using heather from Brownhills Common.  Thanks to Dave Knowles (aka Obi Wan) from the Forest of Mercia, who advised me on twisting and binding down with white willow, I managed a nice first attempt.  The rest of the basket is made from Dicky Meadows Willow (a variety of Salix purpurea) which I thought worked really nicely, and although it is a bit waxy, I just LOVE the glaucous colour.  Going to use this basket for my Christmas Tree base this year!


Indigenous Basketry

I’ve been on a couple of museum trips recently – to the V&A museum in London (where I photographed the bats in last week’s post) and yesterday to the World Museum in Liverpool, where there are fantastic examples of indigenous basketry from around the world.  I thought I’d post a few of my favourite photos from the trips, which consist largely of coiled baskets. (European & Celtic baskets are usually made by weaving willows or other materials, whereas many new world baskets and traditional African baskets are primarily coiled baskets – more akin to sewing than to ‘basket weaving’, but nonetheless requiring an astonishing amount of skill.) My favourite by far is the Vancouver Whaler’s Hat – although I love all coiled basketry and marvel at the time and patience required for even the smallest piece (You can take a look at my first coiled basket here – made from Pine Needles – which took me about three hours!) I am really beginning to develop a love for Canadian / First Nations basketry.  Anyway, hope you enjoy the pics!

Hedge Over Heels

*You’ll probably notice that I’ve been consolidating a couple of blogs, and many of my basketry posts are now here.  I need to go through them and sort our feature images, etc., but please feel free to have a rummage through this year’s posts.

‘Tis the season for (amongst other things) basket making, as hedgerow materials are abundant during the autumn.  From Willow and Dogwood to Bramble and Ivy, there is a wealth of natural materials out there to be found, harvested and made into baskets.  I have been doing an intermediate basketry course recently, and we’ve been looking at coppicing / harvesting natural materials to make baskets.  Here’s a few photos of last month’s hedgerow basket (made from green, yellow and buff willow – the buff is bought willow, which I used to ‘tighten up’ the natural materials, which will shrink as they dry.

 Watch this space next week for tips on harvesting, preparing and storing natural materials for basketry…

Everybody was Wu Fu Fighting

Next time you’re in London, I’d highly recommend popping into the V&A Museum (its right next to the Natural History and Science Museums).  Walk down the awesome (yet, not too ostentatious) hall of sculptures, and pop into room 44, the China exhibit, and start looking for bats!

Rather than the ‘creatures of the night’ and harbingers of doom/dracula/general spookiness that they are here in the West, bats in China are seen as a symbol of good luck.  The Chinese word for ‘bat’ is ‘fu’, which is (effectively) the same as their word for ‘fortune/luck’ (the pronunciation is the same but the symbol very slightly different).  As such, bats can be found in art, carvings, ceramics, paintings and embroidery (from the 17th century onward), and particularly in ceremonial objects.

Bats are often pictured in groups/circles of five bats in the symbol ‘Wu Fu’ (Five Fortunes), which are Happiness, Health, Wealth, Longevity and a Good Death.

China has a very rich bat fauna (There’s a fantastic website here if you’d like to read more about them!) with well over 50 species, including four species of megabat.

A blog about Natural History, Traditional Crafts, Wild Foods & Foraging, Ecology, Wildlife, Astronomy & Science


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