Still a Basket Case

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.

Find out much more about basket making in Cyprus in my book ” Androula’s Kitchen-Cyprus on a Plate”




A Real Basket Case

Three types of basket weaving found in Cyprus.

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.