Friday, May 15, 2009

Basketmaking Workshop

Last week I attended a basketry demonstration and discussion.

Jesse Larocque, Abenaki basketmaker extraordinaire, showed some of his basket collection.

Lidded basket (ash splints, sweet grass)

Collection of Abenaki baskets

Lids are often a feature of Abenaki baskets

Brown ash log partially pounded

To prepare the ash splints, Jesse uses a mallet to pound the log and break the splints across along the growth rings in the wood.

Splints peeling off pounded brown ash log. The splints break apart along growth ring lines. Jesse can then peel them so that they're even finer - with smooth shiny surfaces on both sides.

Brown ash (foreground) and white ash (background)

The brown ash is a preferred tree for ash baskets. The bark flakes off easily in your hand, like pie crust. Two colors of splints come from brown ash trees, creamy yellow splints, and a slightly reddish splint.

Black Ash

In many sources, black ash and brown ash trees are considered interchangeable. However, to an Abenaki basketmaker, the trees definitely differ. The bark of the black ash is not flaky like the brown ash.

Splints from the black ash are either very white (instead of the creamy color from a brown ash tree) or very dark, almost black.

There are also differences in how the trees look when they first bloom.

Birch bark vessel

Birch bark can be made watertight (think canoes) with the use of pitch on the seams.

Inside of birch bark vessel

I find birch bark fascinating.....This class made me want to make baskets this summer.

Seems like a good front porch project!! (Well, except the pounding of ash logs, which I think I'll leave to the professionals!!)


Sharon said...

Isn't it astounding that a lyrical basket came from a stout tree?! It's another form of weaving.

Theresa said...

Oh perfect summer porch project. I love birch bark also and I think that's my favorite basket.

bspinner said...

The baskets are beautiful. Amazing just how much work there is in making a "good handmade basket". Unlike those made in a factory and claim to be handmade. Each one is a treasure. The birch sure is interesting!!!
I agree with Theresa and think it would be a fun porch project.

Life Looms Large said...

Jesse (the basketweaver) said it takes him 2 1/2 days to make a single basket (maybe 6 x 12) without a lid. That does include all of the time to prepare the splints.

He did say that sometimes if they were out picking berries and needed a container, they'd whip up a quick birch bark basket.

Thanks, as always, for your comments!


Jennifer said...

It certainly makes one appreciate baskets and the prices! I understand it is the only textile left that is still only made by hand! It's amazing and I look forward to your summer projects