Sunday, 12 February 2012


I really enjoyed myself last week setting up a showcase at the City Lit to publicise the book signing I'll be doing there on Thursday 16th, 1-2pm, Room 414, Fourth Floor.  It took me longer than expected as I had so much interest from people coming up and asking questions while I was doing it.  It was great to have the opportunity to talk about the book and the range of basketry courses on offer at the City Lit.

                                             It took longer than expected to clean the glass too!

I'd spent time in the studio beforehand making some plaited pieces from the final set of book proofs.  They were printed on such good quality glossy paper that it seemed a shame not to use them.  What better use than to make basketry to show some of the techniques illustrated in the book.  I did include a few extra plaited items that are not in the book just because I love plaiting.

I'll be making more of the bead-like balls.  So satisfying to make and I love the riot of colours. 

The red stake and strand basket was a prototype that I made in 2003 for the final show of the Part One City and Guilds Basketry course  that I began in 2001.  Most of my other show pieces were non-functional as I'd spent much of the course trying to avoid making actual baskets.  But after several sessions having to make a dyed centre cane shopping basket to someone else's recipe I decided to design one of my own.  I love vintage baskets from the 1940s and 1950s and the interwoven wavy-line design was inspired by one in my collection. 

Here it is with proof pages from the book temporarily woven through it.  It just the right size for a City Lit prospectus - or a copy of Practical Basketry Techniques! 

It's something of a contradiction that I ended up writing basketry 'recipes' for the book (traditionally, the instructions for making baskets were known as recipes). Following a recipe for someone else's design is just one way to learn the basic techniques but not the only one.  It is quite a useful discipline though to record the materials, the techniques and the making process along with what works and what doesn't even if it doesn't end up as precise recipe.  I got several commissions for this one in different colours so was glad I'd kept a record.

Actually, here's a confession, I've never been very good at following recipes be it for baking cakes, knitting or crocheting sweaters or sewing-up a dress pattern.  I've always preferred to make my own designs - sometimes with 'interesting' results.  There's a world of difference though between a happy accident that leads to a delicious creative breakthrough  and a disastrous, half-baked innovation that gives you indigestion - my attempts at free-form baking tending to veer towards the latter!  Making mud pies in the garden was always more my thing.

In the book we demonstrate a range of basic construction techniques that can easily be adapted  to different materials, forms and functions.  These techniques and the tips for working with them are just the starting point.  Some people are of the view that too much emphasis on technique, particularly good technique, can stifle individual creativity, freedom of expression and innovation.  Not so.  A desire for creativity will always seek and find expression - techniques are just a means to an end and the more help you can get from those who have been there before the quicker you can get along and do your own thing. 

That's why the City Lit is such a great place for Adult Learning.  Fantastic tutors, a supportive environment with an ethos that nurtures and encourages creativity and lots of lovely, friendly fellow students.  For me this book signing event will be like coming home - to say thankyou. 

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