I spent three days with this fabulous group of women over last weekend, weaving this fabulous Tahitian Market Basket out of a beautiful material called Lauhala. We all came to Shaw Island, and not only did we weave together during the day, we all stayed over at the guest house of one of the women (the only one not in this picture). So we cooked together, ate together, drank together, worked on the basket well into the night, and got up early to do it all again.
None of us finished the basket completely, so it will be interesting to see how they look once they are embellished with various trims, shells, etc. But each one already has its own personality, and that will only develop more in the last stages of completing them. Out teacher, Lei McCornack, is in the middle of the back row. I have my arm around her in gratitude, love and admiration. We are a strong and close-knit group of women, and Lei did a wonderful job of jumping in and teaching us this very challenging basket, in her laid back, very Tahitian way.
Challenging? Make that very challenging. Many steps along the way. It’s a double-walled basket which means that you weave an inside and then start all over again to weave the bias-plaited exterior. And there is sewing involved. And trim to be made by hand. All using this sensual and amazing Lauhala to weave with. You see it at its thickest on the exterior of the basket, but it can be stripped down to it’s thinnest and will fit through the eye of a needle to sew with.
As the work progressed, we all had our individual moments of challenge. I hit my own wall at about 3 pm on Friday afternoon while working on the bias-plaiting. I got incredibly frustrated, and cranky. I wanted to just rip the basket apart and throw it away. I wanted to scream. I hated everybody in the room, and of course, I looked around and saw only perfection in their baskets, while mine was a pice of shit! I told my dear friend, “Don’t talk to me!” It was not pretty! Not pretty at all. But I went off and sat by myself. I drank a lot of water, and started to breathe. I looked at the basket with acceptance, and began to pull and tighten, and pull and tighten again. Yes, there are some weak areas. But I began to love the basket in spite of them and maybe even because of them.
And I got to have a quiet little melt down in the midst of one of loveliest, most supportive group of women you’ll ever hope to find. I got to be real and vulnerable, and that alone was worth it all. We all got to deepen our friendships with each other, and we all accomplished a Herculean task in making this incredible basket.