Who would have thought that I would attend and have so much fun at a Basket Weaving Workshop? I certainly would not have guessed it but I got so enthusiastic about it that I actually arose super early and drove 70km down to Cairns to attend.
And how did this come about? You might ask! Well my dear friend Angie came to visit me and we decided to spend our last day together pottering around the Cairns Botanic Gardens. Far North Queensland boasts some absolutely stunning tropical flowers and we were determined to take a peek before I piled her on the plane back home to Sydney.
As we ended our tour, which was a little marred by rain, we found ourselves in the Visitor’s Centre admiring a very new exhibition. Within minutes, Angie was transfixed by this unique basket that drew our breaths away.
I wish I had taken a proper photo of it, but you can get the idea as I leave her at Departures with her case and badly boxed basket. It was the best they could do on short notice – they had no idea products would be walking out the door on the first day, let alone the first hour.
The exhibition was still being set up when we were wandering round and when Angie enquired about buying it, no one had any idea how much it was. So the creator Pam, was summoned.
Luckily Pam was on her way to the centre anyway and soon we met up. Angie bought her lovely woven sculpture and we were told a little about Free Form or Random Basket Weaving. Never had I heard of such a thing and certainly I had never contemplated being able to do something like that myself.
Pam then explained to us that there was a monthly workshop and anyone was welcome. Basket Weaving – hmmmm isn’t that for old people? blind people? people without friends or a life, perhaps? You might have thought so, but I can very quickly change your opinion on that one.
This workshop was all about using natural products found in your own garden or nearby forest or park. Luckily for me, we have a huge date palm right outside our front door and these date stems are about the simplest way to start.
Pam and Marcia led the workshop masterfully. As Marcia taught us how to begin our baskets, Pam walked around distributing soaked inflorescence, in this case, palm stems, and later dipping our creations in a bucket of water as we worked, to keep them pliable.
Marcia in the striped T shirt showed us how to weave the damp stems through the form. More soaked stems were wrapped inside the towel, keeping them nice and supple.
The workshop was open to all ages and the children thoroughly enjoyed it. Their creations were truly fantastic and the shapes and materials they could think to incorporate kept them occupied for hours.
Although none of us stopped working, apart from the odd sip of delicious coffee supplied by the cafe next door (at a workshopper’s discount might I add) we still had time to chat to each other. We were all very different yet experiencing this together, we very quickly found something in common and it bonded us in a natural, warm way.
It was definitely the most relaxing workshop I have ever attended and by the end of it, not only did I have my own little bird’s nest to take home, but I felt that if I had the ability to return, I would soon have a lovely new set of friends.
The workshop was also educational – I mean, did you know the word ‘inflorescence’ before I mentioned it? It was a first for me. It is a botanical word – An inflorescence is a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches. It is the part of the shoot of seed plants where flowers are formed.
I am under strict instructions to educate people here and spread the word. Consider it done Saltwater Creek Basketry Group!
Adding to this, other popular materials that are often used, mainly from more Southern States where the climates are non-tropical, include jasmine, honeysuckle, various creepers etc. These are all types of vines and more importantly, we now know they are inflorescence. See, even I can use the word without hardly blinking now!
River was clearly the star of the morning. It was her first lesson, like most of us, but she definitely shone in this field.
At the other end of the room were more experienced weavers and they were going great guns, producing more intricate stuff. They had progressed from the random weave.
Outside the workshop room was the actual exhibition. On display were many forms of Random Weave which I so love. Not being the neatest person on the planet, this looser form of weaving, using natural products and found objects really appeals to me.
A palm inflorescence.
We were unable to determine what inflorescence this was. I know I have seen it somewhere but can’t place it.
This has queen palm inflorescence used on the sides.
Twisted palm fronds
This basket is made using all sorts of materials including onion bags, plastic bags, rope, and just about anything that bent!
Made from wire
This enormous basket was made using vines.
And the more refined works… what we aspire to!
I can thoroughly recommend trying out a free form weaving workshop. It was a wonderful way to while away a few hours. The company was excellent and there’s nothing like producing your own masterpiece. The cost of the workshop is by donation. What these two ladies gave in time, love and inspiration was more than generous.
And if you can’t make it to Cairns, then look up for a Basket Weaving Club near you. They assured me that there is a huge resurgence in this field and interest groups are springing up all over the world.
The Saltwater Creek Basketry Group that I attended can be found here.
Go weave a little magic into your world! I’m definitely going to give it another go.