I have long been a basket case and wherever I find them I hone in like a fine tuned radar.
What is it that attracts me? For one thing the variety of shapes, sizes and colours that can be achieved with a few rushes , grasses or canes. In fact any pliable cane or twig can be fashioned into a basket. Evidence of hard caned baskets have been found on Cyprus dating as far back as Neolithic times which I find mind-blowing. Who first thought of weaving strands of plant material to make a container and what a clever chap or chapess they were?
This craft exists all over the world, I love the colourful baskets of Africa and France particularly and recently bought a beautiful and very colourful basket from a stall at a local garden fair in the centre of Chichester. Butternut baskets imports them from Northern Ghana Africa and what a time I had choosing! I eventually plumped for a crimson and green pattern and now use it to store bread, perfect as it allows air to circulate. This weave is very tight and the grasses used are fine similar to the talaria baskets used to make cheese in Cyprus. In Cyprus traditionally they used a very open weave string like tray which would hang from the beam to store their bread these are called tapatzia .
In Cyprus baskets were made for many purposes and there were even baskets made with openings in the top to allow transportation of fowls to market. On my recent trip I went in search of a tsestos which are particularly made in the Paphos region using straw bound into a rope like strand and wound round, decorated with colours and patterns. I found a very attractive small one for sale in a shop in Platres along with a small, shallow hard caned basket with handles as well as a nicely round shaped talari.
I also wanted to venture to Akrotiri where I knew there were basket makers still working. It was a hot day when I made the journey and it was a longer journey than it seemed on the map. I didn’t find the woman who made the baskets but I discovered the delightful baskets that she had made in a garage next to her house. There were some dinky little talaria and other colourful small baskets made with the same material but in a different shape to what I had seen before. These baskets were half the price to the ones I had bought in a shop in Platres but then it had taken me an hour to get there and the cost of the petrol so I consider them both a fair price.
Here is a fabulous short l film on basket making in Cyprus :- http://www.cyprusonfilm.