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.
I finished the Summer Mandala just a few days ago, and it signals the end of many summer tasks. I am not quite ready for it to be September. I’m never really ready for September, but this year it seems especially difficult. I want the sunny bright colors of the mandala to last longer. I want the flowers to stay around. I want the garden to keep growing.
I do love Summer! And I am working on Trust in so many areas of my life right now. Learning to trust that the strength and sense of flow that summer brings me can last into the Fall, even when it is rainy and gray.
I’ve completed three of the seasons. One more mandala to go in my version of the four seasons.
Each of these small wooden circles measures only one and a half inches in diameter. Yet in each one, there is a lot going on. Some definitely are more simple than others. They just came together with ease, and felt finished. Others are more worked, and that is because they didn’t flow as well initially. A color may have been wrong. Or my hand slipped as I applied the enamel paint, so that a cover up became essential. Some of those become my favorites because they have more history. Enamel paint is fun to work with because it dries very quickly and is opaque, making layering possible.
Each one has a magnet attached to the back, so they are useful items to have.
I love making them for several reasons. It is fun to work with a water-based paint instead of oil. It is really fun and challenging to work that small. It takes concentration to do them. I need to keep breathing as I work or something inevitably goes wrong. I get a lot of information from doing so many of them at once. It is liberating to think of them as functional. Getting an energetic brushstroke with a tiny little brush is not easy for me. And doing them gives me a lot of information for doing my other paintings. Frees the hand, informs the eye, engages the brain.
In January, I came up with the idea of doing a new mandala for each season of the year. I finished the one for Winter on the day before the Spring Equinox. This one is ready well in advance of summer. Good for me!
The sub-theme for Spring is Tolerance. And here is why. Do all the flowers get stressed when they start coming up at the same time in Spring? Do they fight with each other for space, or crowd each other out, or deny each other light and water? No, they somehow make it work. And even when the weeds start to take over, they all still tolerate each other. They all know what to do. My personal lesson in all this is to be more tolerant of those who don’t act with kindness, or who don’t care about the good of the planet, or don’t have a particularly humanitarian philosophy. I recognize that we are still all connected whether I want to admit it or not.
But perhaps my greatest challenge in the Tolerance department is for those nearest and dearest to me. It is so easy to get annoyed or to need and demand perfection from them. I want to feel like the two ribbons of blue in the mandala, entwined yet flowing in different ways and in a different rhythm. I want to be working toward the sun and putting more and more consciousness into the tangle of green. Coming through in the orange and pink flowers. It’s all growing in its own way and in its own time. And oh my, I want to be more tolerant of myself as well. That dark spot almost in the center of the mandala. The remnant of darkness from the Winter months. The remainder of mistrust and doubt in my soul.
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.