The art of black ash basketry dates back to the Native Americans and their utilitarian baskets. Black ash baskets were used for many different things including corn washing, food gathering, fishing, and household containers. As time went on, the basket became more then an art born of necessity, and became a true art form. Before long, ornamental baskets were being created along side the more useful models. Ash baskets are very durable and are often passed down through generations, darkening with age as if gathering memories within the weave.
In Monday's class, we began to process our ash splints and prepare them for weaving. We needed 1 thick splint for our uprights, and 2 thinner ones for our weavers. The uprights would be the basic form and skeleton of the basket, which we would weave the weavers around. To get the weavers, we cut a slice in the splint about 2 inches from the top, halfway through the splint across the grain. Once a tab is created, it is bent back to create a separation between the two halves. Using the splitter (a nifty contraption made of 3 pieces of wood that has a pinch at the top) the splint is fed up through a hole in the side and through the pinched slats at the top. Using even pressure on each side the splint is split over the top of the splitter, down its entire length. Some of us had trouble with one side thinning and breaking off, however with some help from Stuart Soboleski, and Irene Ames we discovered that when one side becomes thicker, to pull it more severely to even it out. It was so exciting to see the smooth satiny finish of the inside of the splints! After splitting, the outside of the splint is shaved smooth with a knife to remove the fibrous tissue of the cambium.
The splits are then soaked before cutting.
We then used a specialized cutting tool to cut the splints to the widths desired for uprights.
The strips were then cut into 9-10 inch lengths for weaving.
Next we began the weaving together of the uprights on 5x5 blocks for the shape of our baskets. we found that the thicker the uprights, the harder the weaving!
Once the bottom was done, we braced the sides up against the side of the mold, tacked them down and set them in the sun to dry.
Next we soaked the weavers while we took the uprights off the mold. Next we began to weave, which was a little frustrating with the thicker uprights.
The trick was to weave the ends under each other and the up
rights to hide them. next class we finish weaving, and do our rims! cant wait!