Monday, 19 July 2010

Tour de France

Basket making can be quite a lengthy and monotonous activity, especially when coiling, which explains why,traditionally, basket making was, and still is often, a communal activity. Not necessarily something that everyone present in the same space is doing but something that is done in the presence of other people.

In Shetland the baskets for use in the home and on the croft used to be made indoors in the winter. Made by the men the baskets were coiled or twined from oat straw, whilst the women of the house would probably have been spinning or knitting , but its also highly likely that someone was telling a story or playing the fiddle or tending the fire and as family numbers were large and the houses small there would also have been children and babies doing what children and babies do.

Commercial basket making workshops have always been communal workspaces but often in these spaces, by contrast, the making process itself is shared out, consequently no-one has propriety over one basket, instead they are produced, in effect, on a production line, one person doing bases the next the sides, yet another to border and someone to do the handles and finishing touches.

Both ways of working permit chatter and conviviality that allows the basket maker to work without thinking about the action of their hands and instead allows the body to work rhythmically doing what is asked of it and what many sports psychologists suggest is the ideal way for the body to perform i.e without intellectual interference. (Timothy Gallwey "The Inner Game of Tennis"). Which brings me to the rather satisfying connection I have found between the Tour de France and basket making.

I have been working on a coiled paper laundry basket for months, in small bursts, the technique has not altered from start to finish so requires little thought -just the occasional glance at the shape, which is one of the reasons I cannot work all day on it without some external stimulation. When I lived in London I listened to radio 4, the spoken word providing the company and distraction I needed to just get the job done, but here in France I have happily discovered that for three weeks of the year the Tour de France on television is sufficiently distracting to allow my body to work efficiently without my brain interfering. Watching 150 young fit men wearing skin tight clothing slogging round France on bicycles in some stunning scenery has meant the basket is almost finished, without me noticing the clock ticking away.

1 comment:

  1. Interesante, fabricar un cesto con las manos a base de vueltas y vueltas mientras otros dan vueltas y vueltas con sus piernas a las ruedas de unas bicicletas, y seguramente, una y otros dan vueltas y vueltas con sus cabezas y corazones a sentimientos y pensamientos que dan vueltas y vueltas.