The ancient art of basket weaving is a practice that dates back to prehistoric times. Indigenous peoples wove vessels for utilitarian reasons as well as ceremonial. Baskets were used to store and transport goods, for trading, and later on, for furniture. Baskets are made from a wide variety of pliable materials such as rattan core, willow, grasses, hide, hair, and vines.
Because the material is degradable, we cannot know when basket weaving appeared in human history, the oldest known weaving date back 27,000 years though it is likely baskets were being produced prior to then.
The technique of basket weaving can be used in many, and larger, applications and when used architecturally, draws together the use of natural materials , a prehistoric technique, and modern applications. On varying scales, the tradition can be applied to construct sculptural work or alter environments.
Andrea von Chrismar applies traditional Chilean techniques of willow weaving to create woven membranes which transform the space.
Anne Marie O’Sullivan uses basket weaving to manipulate locally sourced ash and willow to mimic the undulating hills of South Downs in Great Britan in her installation, Cluster from 2012. Her sculptural approach encourages the public to walk around and experience the form from all sides, to stand within it also and explore it as an enclosure.
On a larger scale, basket weaving can inspire structure and form of structures. The concept of the Pompidou-Metz museum was birthed from a Chinese hat that Shigeru Ban came across in Paris. The caning technique used in this type of hat was translated into glued laminated timber which intersects in a hexogonal form to create the roof structure of the museum.
I respond to basket weaving for many reasons. Basket weaving is beautiful. It is purposeful, it is also sustainable. The material, while at one time an alive and growing plant, has an existential duality in a purposeful static form. The transformation of the shape of the structure as the weave progresses, the repetition of the weave throughout, and the strength of form that is created by uniting the materials all impress upon me a crescendo of rhythmic construction. We all likely have an ancestral connection to basket weaving, it speaks to our common, historical nature.