Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Woven Communities Symposium 2

John Cowan and his herring cran
Symposiums around basket making are a rare breed.  I have only been to four: Basketry Making Human Nature at the Sainsbury Centre in 2011, Woven Communities 1 at St. Andrews University in 2012, Viva Basket  in Cieszyn, Poland in 2014 and Woven Communities 2 at St. Andrews last week. But we definitely need more because they are a great way to meet your fellow makers and for us to engage with people in many other walks of life whose work, in some way or another, connects with basket making.
Dawn Susan demonstrating  a Hebridean ciosan
This latest symposium at St. Andrews is the last programmed event in the much bigger Woven Communities Project that was initiated by and has been managed, so ably, by Stephanie Bunn of the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St. Andrews.

The theme for this event was Making, Mind and Memory and was divided into sections, Materials and Skills, Memory and Reminiscence, Basketry and Maths, Therapeutic Uses of Basketry, Intangible Knowledge and Education and Innovation. Within this framework we heard from basket makers, anthropologists, archaeologists, artists,engineers, philosophers, an occupational therapist, museum curators  a ropeworker and a mathematician among others.  There are always  things  that spark the imagination or kick start a new way of looking at things immediately and things that re surface some time later, because they just won't go away.

The things that I came away with immediately are images from Hilary Burns talk about basketry in Britain during and after the 1914-18 war, the use of maths for inspiration by Mary Crabb, a map drawn from memory by a Hebridean fisherman in Jon Macleods talk, the smiling faces of Polish basket makers in Paulina Adamskas' presentation and the fibre alphabet of Kiphu cords of the central Andes that Sabine Hyland is researching. It seems divisive to single anything out because in truth it was all fascinating and enjoyable. Except, that is, for my own Open Office presentation which was plagued with technical glitches, the most serious resulting in the loss of some images. Not an experience I have ever had before and very frustrating. But, according to the internet I am not alone. Personally I suspect Windows 10 has an anti open source glitch built into it, but then I am naturally suspicious of any business that makes a lot of money!

My thanks to Stephanie for inviting me and to everyone else involved in organising the event, especially Lucie.

En route I managed to see Lise Bechs solo show at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh,  lovely work but the gallery should have given her more space, the work needs and deserves some air around it and the paintings upstairs had plenty of room!


  1. Thanks for news. were in remote Australia yet are consciously working with all of these aspects of our craft. Bute to hear international reinforcement of interest.

    1. Glad it is of use to you. We did have Lissant Bolton with us talking about indigenous Australian basketry which was great.

    2. I am building networks. Thank for your European branches.