Thursday, April 21, 2011
Pine Needle Baskets
It seems every where I go I find people creating art from natural items surrounding them. The first time I saw a pine needle basket in California I was drawn to the beauty created from such an overlooked readily available material. Pine needles are often regarded as a nuisance in the landscape. They create a thick impermeable duff on the forest floor, but with skill and imagination they can be turned into a beautiful basket or other creative pieces of art. Years ago I vowed to some day learn about the ancient art and craft of making pine needle baskets. Recently I found an opportunity to fulfill that promise to myself. Today I visited Dot Lehman to take a class on pine needle basket making.
Last evening I went into our back yard and collected a bag of dry pine needles. I soaked them over night in water and drained them this morning to take with me. However fresh pine needles are the ones most prized by pine needle basket weavers. Freshly dropped needles aren't curled and dried out from lying about in the sun for months.
This morning Dot and I started in by removing the sheathes which hold the three ping needles together with a paring knife. The trick is the remove the sheath but keep the needles bound together in their group of three. Many of the needles I collected were of varying lengths and I could readily see those of longer and more uniform length would have been better. But this time of year I had to gather what was available until I can gather some fresh needles when they drop.
The photos you see here are Dot's work, some in progress. At the end you'll see the small beginning of a basket I completed in two hours this morning. I'll go back next week for another lesson, and I suspect many more after that. Perhaps some may think handmade is quick and easy. I have to admit I didn't realize there was so much involved in making a pine needle basket.
Here are some of Dot's earrings with pine needles, watermelon and cantalope seeds. I can see myself gathering and saving the seeds and pods from many plants. I like the fact only items gathered from nature are used in the basket making. Harkens my mind to what the hunter gatherer cultures of Native Americans might have been doing in their daily lives. Here is a link to more information about basket weaving.
Here are some sand dollar earrings. Gee where have I put all the shells I've been collecting. Not knowing at the time the reason why I collected them; I just trusted that I'd need them some day. I have other ideas about using natural dyes for some of the pine needles and incorporating clay beads in a pine needle basket. And there are those pinchpots I want to add pine needle weaving to.
Here's two hours of my work on the beginning of a small basket. There's much more to making a pine needle basket than meets the eye, different stitches, different binding materials, different styles. The materials are simple, but the techniques can be as plain or complicated as the imagination wants them to be. Working with pine needles takes patience and persistence, just like clay work. Stay tuned I'll bring you more news about my pine needle basket making in the future.