Wednesday, 21 December 2011


An advance copy of  Practical Basketry Techniques arrived yesterday 20/12/2011.  What a nice set of numbers!  It came in the Christmas post - one of the best presents ever and one I couldn't possibly leave unopened until Christmas day.  Much anticipated but still a surprise as I hadn't been expecting it until January.  It was so exciting to open the package and hold the real, whole thing in my hands after all the loose-leaf proofs.  My partner Robert, the long suffering 'book widow', had a quick glance before departing swiftly for work - leaving me to coo and drool over the new arrival.  I'll spare everyone the cliched childbirth metaphors.  But it's absolutely beautiful and definitely a girl!  Perhaps the guiding star in the previous post led the way. No! no cheesy Christmassy cliches either.

Snowline (detail) 2004 by Stella Harding featured in Practical Basketry Techniques.  Photo by Trevor Springett - apologies to Trevor whose photo credit for this image was omitted from the book.

She may have the 'eyes' of the co-author, who did most of the photography, and the 'hands' of  our co-authorship as we worked together on the 16 step-by-step practical projects covering six major basketry techniques and some of the other co-authorial processes of book construction; proof checking, image selection and contributor information collating, for example.  Nevertheless, my fellow basketmaker Joyce Hicks, who kindly read the final proof three times, assures me she has my 'voice'.  Although, in writing the text, I made every effort to adopt an authorial voice that was as neutral and inclusive as possible, the reality of the rather strict division of labour obviously comes through regardless.  Those hours, and days and weeks and months alone in front of the lap-top do clearly speak volumes to anyone with the wit and understanding to hear and listen carefully. 

This particular telling of the basketry story includes and speaks of numerous others; that is its main narrative purpose - to acknowledge and give voice to the many makers who made it possible, be they unknown, un-named, traditional basket makers from distant times and places or contemporary artists whose innovative work we hoped would inspire readers and future makers.  It also tells, sometimes obliquely, of the co-author and aspects of his own creative practice and personal textual preferences (for alliteration for example!).  These were the easy bits: much easier to write 'the other' than to write directly about ones self.  The gardener part of me was a different story however - it flowed as I drew on years of practical research and hands-on planting passion (enough with the alliteration now - you can overdo things!). I self-edited a lot too.

Catalan platters - one of the stake and strand projects covered in 'Practical Basketry Techniques'

Though not everyone will read the text in detail - this book was always intended as a visual feast (though, for me it's the basketry that should feed the eyes and not what's in it) and the images should excite, inspire and weave their own counterpoint storyline as well as making a close harmony with the words - I'm pleased to have had the opportunity to write it.  I will, doubtless, have to take responsibility for any inaccuracies or omissions but that's the same old story too.

And, if anyone is so vain as to think this song is about them - well, don't, you! I wrote it, but the song is one for many voices and it's about basketry.

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