Friday, 13 July 2012

Woven Home

Recently, due to a shortage of commissioned  work,  I have been  having fun  making things for myself and my home.  They all had specific design criteria,  in terms of their function, ultimate location and materials, as well as my usual self imposed rules i.e. no materials purchased and basket making techniques employed wherever possible.

Shower Basket 
The previous shower basket/ hold all thing -I have no idea what they are called- was a purchased one made of white plastic coated steel. With time the plastic had cracked (as you can see in the picture above), and the rusting steel began dripping dark stains on the tiles, so it had to go.  An electrician supplies me his off cuts, short pieces of cable which are plastic coated copper which, of course, does not rust, so that  was the chosen material. The looping technique works well with this and provides the open structure the basket needs  to allow water to drain through.  The tricky bit was getting the flexible looped structure stiff enough to support the lower tray for the soap without it flopping forward, but woven  densely enough  it works. I made it very quickly without much planning and although it works very well I will probably do another one, one day,  in order to hone some details.

Fire Screen
The fire screen has been needed for a long time to prevent sparks burning the wooden floor or setting light to the willow sofa,  but also to hide the ugly  black hole in the summer. The problem here was that the fireplace is large so most screens available in the shops or at bric a bracs  are  not big enough.  I live in a modest single storey village house with a cow barn at one end  but it is also a house with pretensions because, oddly,  it has a fireplace fit for a chateau. We think a stone mason lived here once  because the masons symbol was carved into the lintel over a doorway on an outbuilding, and that he built this extraordinary fireplace to show off his handiwork to prospective customers.

Some yellow and black aluminium beer cans were chosen  for the task because they are reasonably fire proof and  the colours seemed appropriate for the room.   Cut down vertically, but still attached to the bases of the tins, the strips were spread out and interwoven.

This structure was then stitched with copper wire to some galvanised mesh left over from a 'grown home' installation. The most difficult part was finding the right material to make the structure self supporting without having a heavy frame around it and I tried many different ways of doing it. In the end I used some rectangular section galvanised strips that are normally used for holding up sheets of plasterboard when lining walls.  I had to cut them in half lengthwise by hand and  the noise was excruciating. The final combination of thin galvanised angle for the frame and  the addition of feet has made it both rigid and very lightweight. It has been named 'Firework'.

Beach Bag
This needed to be big enough  to take all the usual junk for a day at the beach; towels, hats, books, iris leaves, etc, and be easy to carry on the walk from the car to the sand. Milk cartons seemed an appropriate material, being semi -waterproof, but I didn't want to weave them because the resulting weave could never be tight enough to keep the sand out, so in the end I stitched them together. The handles are made from electric cable that I pulled the wires out of  so that they are soft and flexible and easy on the shoulder. Now all we need is some good weather so it can be properly tested.

The brief to myself was; a bag  to use in the summer, light in colour, to  be worn  across my body to free up my hands and arms,  not too big, just for phone, camera and purse. Initially I was tempted to replicate the juice carton bag I made for Paul Smith in 1997 ( there is picture of it in this post ). At his request it  was a 'Kelly Bag'  and though I like the design very much, I  didn't want  a bag with a handle that I have to hold on to for my own use. The last time I went out with one like this  I left it in a park! Since designing the Paul Smith version I have  learnt  that double wall tetra pak is a lot  more  robust, so double wall plaiting was the chosen technique. The edges are reinforced  with bailer twine and I then added a magnetic catch and a brass plug chain (both left over from the Paul Smith sample making),  as well as a crown cap for the 'button' on the front. It functions very well and does everything I ask of it, but after using it for a couple of weeks I am not absolutely sure that the colour of the stitching is right and I may change it, or make another bag!

Now I am working on a log basket whilst thinking about a cupboard. If the so called 'financial crisis' doesn't
come to an end soon  I will have to start working on outdoor projects  because  I am in danger of  filling the house with my weavings.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Salix, that's much nicer than being the Duchess of of the Dump!

  2. I love the fire screen!
    And the other things too :D

  3. I love the fire screen too, it looks brilliant!

  4. Thank you very much and next time I need some mesh I know where to go!

  5. Hi Lois,in reply to your comments on younger people in crafts such as basketry,spinning etc I agree,and as part of this passing on of skills, we are trying to introduce these as part of the Craft Council's craft clubs in schools,galleries etc. My local one,where I volunteer, is at The Sainsbury Centre,Norwich.This provides free tuition and introduction to various crafts.I am also a City Lit Student, City and Guilds basketry and have recently found your blog via one of my friends on the course!

  6. Thank you very much Zoe for your comment which is in response to the Basketmakers AGM 2012 post. (If you could please add it to that post it will make a very nice contribution to the ongoing discussion).
    I was aware that the Crafts Council had initiated Craft Clubs but did not know any basket skills were being offered, so that is great news, keep up the good work!