I’ve always loved baskets. The tactile quality together with the sweet,earthy smell of the natural material whether it be cane or rush or twig or palm leaves and the intricate maze of the weaving together of these materials, I find very seductive. Such a wide variety of containers are made, baskets for every conceivable everyday use, and they can be found around the world in all their varying forms. It is a craft that has existed since Neolithic times and the techniques used today are the same as they were then..isn’t that amazing when you think about it? The ingenuity of man to turn a stalk or twig into a useful container who would know that was possible? The glee of the person who did this, at the sight of their first creation must have been a sight to behold.
When plastics came along the manufacturing of these everyday items was taken over and mass produced but the skill still remains in pockets around the globe. I have bought basketwork from Africa, France, Spain and Cyprus and the U.K. all different styles and materials but using those same skills used at the beginning.
When I was on the trail to learn about the traditional crafts of Cyprus,researching for my book Androula’s Kitchen, I was disappointed to find that this skill, that was once practised by every man woman and child in my dad’s youth, is now hard to find and will be even harder in ten years time. Sadly this is the same story in all fast developing communities, what young person wants to sit all day weaving twigs when they could be working as a car mechanic say or in IT? I did find a few exponents of this craft however and bought a few more basketry bits to add to my collection.
There will always be people like me who appreciate the rustic beauty of a basket and prefer the feel and squeak of twig against twig rather than the sterile bland, feel of plastic or metal. The materials are readily available and need no processing, so hopefully, as long as there is a market for them, someone will be willing to meet the demand.