I have been making baskets for about five years, and I still think of myself as a beginner. It’s not that I haven’t made some nice baskets or that I lack the basic skills. I take a lot of basket making workshops, and for the most part, I am pleased with the results (with a few disastrous exceptions). It’s just that I lack confidence as a basket maker. Each time I start a new basket, I feel challenged. I wonder if I can really do it, let alone do it well. This is part of my basic nature in starting new things. I’m always wanting to try new things, but then all my insecurities and fears keep cropping up.
And then there is the issue of creativity. I so want to be a creative basket maker, not just a technician. To bring the element of art into it. I keep feeling that I am close to doing something unique, but then it eludes me. It doesn’t come out right or it’s just not good enough.
So when I sat down yesterday afternoon to try to figure out a project to teach at the San Juan County Fair this year, I was not feeling very sure of myself. So imagine my surprise when this cute little basket emerged. There is nothing really difficult about it. It is designed to be taught in an hour to someone who has never made a basket before. But I made up the pattern. I decided how many spokes to use, to twine the base and use white fiber rush for it, to add a spoke so that the sides could be a continuous weave, and to make a stripe halfway up the side.
It is a cute little basket. Art it is not. But it feels like my basket. It was a nice moment. And it feels like a step in the right direction.
Several months ago I moved some of my basket-making material down to my studio. It was kind of an experiment to see if I would work more on the baskets in the privacy and quiet of the room that had been just for painting. For a while, it all just sat there in a kind of disorganized heap, and it looked like the experiment was going to be a failure.
Then not too long ago, I started looking over what I had brought down. I took some time to sort through the material, and then I started playing with it. And I have to say that it is feeling really good to be working on baskets right there in my studio. Different somehow than working in the house where I am always distracted with this and that, or sitting down to weave while I watch a movie or talk with friends. Different even than gathering with our basket group once a month. Very different than taking a class.
Because in the studio, I am both the student and the teacher. I think about everything that I’m doing and allow myself the time to do it right. I am not thinking about finishing the basket anymore than I am thinking about finishing a painting. It is all about the process, and so much less about the product. Although ultimately, with both painting and basket making, a product would be nice at some point along the way.
So now in addition to the six unfinished paintings on paper that are tacked on the wall, there are six unfinished baskets. It all makes me happy in ways that I can’t quite explain. Holding the baskets, molding their shapes, and working with them so closely. They become such a part of me. Then turning to paint, holding the brush, feeling connected to the surface it touches. Listening to what they are all trying to teach me.