Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Desire Lines 2010 by Stella Harding.  Photo Sylvain Deleu.  Stake and strand technique with foraged materials - for more details see 'Practical Basketry Techniques'

DESIRE LINES - this is one of my storylines.  I made this piece in March 2010 and exhibited it later that year at the New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham Surrey.  It's made from painted applewood - stencilled through lace - red dogwood and rattan (centre cane). 

Titles are very important to me, they add an extra strand to the narrative nature of a piece - sometimes an element of intrigue or, as here, a double meaning.  Few people I've spoken to about this piece have heard of the term 'desire lines'.  They are tracks or pathways eroded over time by continuous footfall which mark a short cut or the most direct route between two points.  The term was coined by town planners and desire lines are often seen in urban settings such as parks or public spaces but can be made by either animals or humans in rural locations.

As a child living amongst the smoke and factories in the industrial east end of Sheffield I was often taken out into the country-side of Derbyshire by my grandparents.  There we would follow the desire lines of sheep, rabbits and Sunday ramblers through the heather and wild bilberries over the moors above Foxhouse and Froggatt.  In the 1930s my grandparents had joined a 'mass trespass' on these moors to uphold the right of people from nearby towns to walk freely on public land.

I enjoy working in a free way with open, linear, three dimensional structures using natural materials and contemporary basketry is the perfect medium for this. My desire, though, is to mark my materials and forms with my own storylines.


Work by glass and mixed media artist Helene Uffren (left) and textile artist Claire Moynihan (right)

Patchwork tent by Kathryn Carey and headwear by Emma Yeo (left), work by Heidi Parsons, Sarah Elwick and Rosanna Martin (right), NOVA by Stella Harding (centre)

Heidi Parson's wall mounted, screen printed ceramic plates (left), Sarah Elwick's knitted piece (on mannequin) and Leon Lewis's wood sculpture with Rosanna Martin's thrown porcelain ceramics on shelves in the background.

Patchwork tent by Katherine May (left), hand-knitted upholstered chairs by Rose Sharp Jones.

My 'portrait in the making' NOVA by Stella Harding
6 metres high X 2.75 metres wide

Detail of NOVA (the lighter side) showing painted buff willow and twined sisal

The Darker Side of NOVA (detail)

These images are of some of the Gallery exhibits from 'Portraits in the Making' - an Art's Council of England funded exhibition at Pitzhanger Manor Gallery and House in Ealing, London (Sept-Nov. 2011). Pitzhanger Manor was rebuilt by architect Sir John Soane in the early 19th century to house his collections of contemporary paintings, prints, books and classical fragments.  The 17 artists taking part in the exhibition, all members of the first cohort of the Craft Council's Hothouse development programme for emerging makers, were inspired by Soane's reference to Pitzhanger as a 'sort of portrait'.

All photos by Sylvain Deleu

Monday, 28 November 2011

Forthcoming BOOK 'Practical Basketry Techniques' published by A&C Black, February 16th 2012 (UK) May 8th 2012 (US).

If you are keen to learn more about the exciting, dynamic craft of basketry look out for this new book.  Co-authored by myself and Shane Waltener, with text by Stella, photos by Shane and projects by both, 'Practical Basketry Techniques' gives a wide-ranging introduction to the six main basketry techniques in use around the world today: coiling, twining, stake-and-strand, plaiting, interlacing and assembly. 

Chapters on each of the techniques include fascinating historical details, clearly written technical information and a series of well-illustrated, step-by-step projects ranging from basic to more advanced techniques.

Don't worry if you've never tried basketry before - there's something for everyone with projects designed to appeal to all ages and skill levels.

Whether you live in an urban or rural location a separate chapter on materials provides a seasonal guide to identifying, collecting and preparing suitable materials - many of them freely available in your own back yard.

You can soon be making your own unique creations - as gifts for friends, school projects to share with students or as useful items for your home or garden.

Each chapter concludes with a showcase of innovative and inspirational work by renowned contemporary artists and makers.  We hope these images will encourage you to explore how basketry techniques can help develop your own personal creativity.

Here's a sample of some of the projects illustrated on the front cover: a coiled wool cocktail hat and a twined plastic-coated wire penny pot.  The beautiful peacock-blue pod, bottom right,  is by UK maker Mary Crabb.  We won't give away her special making secrets but there's no reason why you can't aspire to making something equally stunning after reading this book.

Colourful covered core coiling from Practical Basketry Techniques

Twining from Practical Basketry Techniques