These five baskets are part of a new series that I’ve been working on for the past few months. They are based on a basket by Donna Choke from the Chehalis tribe in the Pacific Northwest. I saw a version of it that a good friend of mine had made, and fell in love with its loose, appealing style. And I also fell in love with its name.
They are called Crazy Lady Baskets!
My versions are actually somewhat more refined and labor intensive than the one I had seen, but nonetheless they are still quite funky and playful. The basic idea is to make a basket from seagrass and then to fray the ends of the spokes at the end. The variations seem endless and I feel that I’m just beginning to explore them. I am excited about this new direction, because even though they are based on a tribal design, they really feel like my baskets, something that I’ve been working toward for a long time. My attempt is to make a basket that is functional, but has enough presence to stand on its own as a decorative object.
They are really satisfying to create, and I am having a great deal of fun making them. Far from turning me into a Crazy Lady, weaving these baskets calms me down, centers me, and makes me a very Happy Lady.
The idea of creating a mandala for each of the four seasons came to me last January, at a time when I had been feeling pretty sure that I was finished making them. And then, the concept just popped into my head, complete with subtitles for each of them, so I felt that I had to go through with the project. Each one was worked on and completed within its own season. Much to my surprise, it turned into a labor of love, and has been an amazing and healing way of learning about myself and how I feel, as each of the seasons revealed their sweetness to me and yielded its position to the next in line. Four circles (cycles) sitting inside the larger cycle (circle) of one year. Perfect for a person like me who loves looking at almost everything in terms of circles and time passing.
Winter (Stillness) was about finding the quiet place inside myself, wrapping myself in a cocoon of silence, of safety, of protection. Finding imagery to echo Stillness was quite a challenge. But the most important lesson was to discover how much movement there could be within the Stillness of the winter months, how much opportunity for growth and change. How bright it all really was.
Spring (Tolerance) held a kernel of an idea that somehow everything and everyone could work together toward growth and cooperation, toward the promise of blossoming. But in reality, nature is messy and free and wild. There is an unruly aspect to Tolerance. Things are popping up all over the place, yet they all seem to know when and where to grow. My lesson was strong and clear. Get out of the way and let it happen.
Summer (Trust) became a way of finding renewed strength and confidence. I always love summer, since I was born at the end of July and feel my happiest during the heady part of summer that Leo rules. This year, I learned to Trust my body more and to be more grateful for it. In return, it allowed me to garden and to be creative and to keep learning about life and love, about getting and giving support.
Fall (Vulnerability) took me totally by surprise. Originally, its subtitle was Surrender, but I realized that Vulnerability was more appropriate for what I was feeling. It was supposed to have a leaf in the center, but that changed to a Falling Figure (a motif I painted many years ago). I tried to turn it back into a leaf, but the figure demanded to be seen. It is about everything being revealed in the Fall. As the leaves fall, we see and are seen. Both make us more Vulnerable. I mourn for what I have lost. I rejoice for what I have gained. It is a bittersweet time. And what I have learned is that being Vulnerable is okay. Maybe not always fun, but always okay.
Every time I fly back into Seattle, I hope to catch a glimpse of Mount Ranier from the plane. I know to sit on the left side and I always want a window seat. If I’m lucky, it begins to loom on the horizon after crossing over the Cascades, and shows up as the plane is descending into Seattle. Sometimes, it is invisible, shrouded in fog and clouds. Every once in a while, it is huge and shining and the air all around it is clear and sweet. For me, it means that I am almost home. And seeing this glorious mountain reminds me of the power and sanctity of nature.
On Monday, I was flying back from Chicago and there it was. This time, the clouds did not surround it completely, but only allowed its shape to emerge ever so slightly through the window of the plane. I decided to take a few pictures anyway, thinking that maybe they’d be better than I thought. The pictures looked fuzzy and Ranier was barely visible. But even though the mountain didn’t look like much in the camera, I downloaded the pictures anyway. Then I started to play around, cropping a little, playing with contrast, saturation, light and dark. Left a little tilt to the photo, so the idea that it was taken from a plane is obvious. Finally, I made the image black-and-white. The horizontal chain of mountain and clouds is still merging into one another, but Ranier can hold its own.
Just a fun exercise. To get a grand view of a grand mountain, well worth the effort.
A Butterfly on a Butterfly Bush
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.