Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. ~Twyla Tharp

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Basket Weaving: Art vs Craft

One of the things that we talk about in my classroom is what the purpose of art is.  More times than I would like to admit, it is driven by a sullen middle schooler asking me why they have to take this class.  We talk about all the careers that are art driven, how art helps you think creatively, gives you a broad worldview and how learning about art helps us to learn about ourselves and other cultures.  We also talk about the function of art and whether or not it is purely aesthetic or if it can be functional as well.  For the last couple of weeks, some of my classes have been learning a basket weaving technique that people around the world, of many different cultures have been using for thousands of years.  

If you google yarn basket weaving, you will come up with hundreds of links that will teach you the process.  It’s a simple enough technique but I impose my own set of standards to make sure that none of us are taking shortcuts.  I introduce the project by showing them examples of baskets, both modern and antique. We spend some time talking about the sweetgrass and pine needle baskets made in coastal South Carolina and I share baskets with my students that I have collected from Senegal (purchased in an import store in Pittsboro, NC), Ethiopia (a gift from a former student who was there on a missions trip) and Charleston (bought on a recent trip).  We talk about how interesting it is that people who lived hundreds of years ago, thousands of miles apart somehow managed to create baskets using the same technique, but with the materials that were available to them.

I LOVE this project.  Once I get them started, which is the hardest part, and they understand the pattern, the atmosphere in the classroom is so relaxed.  We listen to music, talk about what is going on in their drama filled middle school lives and chat about art.  Can art be functional?  Is there a difference between art and craft?  How would you feel if you had to make a basket for everything that you wanted contained in your house?  We make lists of all the things that we keep that are in small plastic containers that you can pick up at the dollar store or bigger containers that we find at Walmart or Target.  It’s amazing to think that EVERYTHING was contained in a woven basket or a wooden box before plastics became so common.  We look around the art room  to see all the things that we keep organized with plastic containers.  I must have 50 things on my desk alone.  We find a new appreciation for our ancestors who didn’t have the luxury of picking out their Tupperware in a catalog so that they can neatly organize their pantry.

I only do this project once every 5 years or so.  The coil can be costly and I have to wait for my friends to clean out  their craft rooms for yarn donations.  It’s definitely worth the wait though.

Here are some pictures of our process and product:
Apparently, standing helps when starting baskets.

Sweet girls

Getting started is the hardest part.

Working hard

I think that this day was wear pink for breast cancer day

OMG Yarn monster.  I have a plan to take care of this.  Really, I do.

LilliAnn's basket

Xee's basket

Kylie's basket

Christian's basket

Courtney's basket

Moye's basket

Julius's basket

Payge's basket

Kaleah's basket

I am super proud of how nice these baskets are turning out.  These are by far the best baskets that have ever come out of MizzSmiff's Art Room!