After making baskets for over 30 years exclusively with natural materials I harvest in my local area, I've discovered there are 5 basket weaving techniques that lend themselves best to the process of making baskets. They include twining, plaiting, twill, rib basketry and random weaving. As you'll see in my work below, I prefer to keep my weaving techniques simple and allow the natural beauty of the materials to shine through, creating the depth and interest desired.
Twining is probably the most ancient of all the basket weaving techniques I use in my work. The word comes from the root word "twin", meaning two since it utilizes two pieces of like material simultaneously. Here's a quick video below to demonstrate the technique.
Twining is probably my favorite technique because it's so easy to learn, able to be implemented in functional and artistic applications, and can be executed using a variety of soft and rigid materials from foliage and bark to reed and even metal. Here are a few examples of twined pieces I've created over the years using natural materials I've harvested like vines, bark and foliage.
To learn more about how to twine and create beautiful baskets from natural materials, check out my online course, Twining with Soft Natural Materials where I show you step by step how to harvest, process and weave natural materials like foliage, vines and bark. The best part is, you can start making baskets within just a few days after watching this course, regardless of your experience level.
The next basket weaving technique is plaiting. Although plaiting can be done in a variety of ways, I really enjoy diagonal plaiting to create both functional and decorative bags, pouches and baskets. The best part is, plaiting works beautifully with bark, which is one of my favorite natural materials to work with. Here are a few examples of plaited baskets I've created over the years.
Another great basket weaving technique to use with flat materials like tree bark is what's called Twill. This is a more loose method of weaving that is based on using tension and skipping over stakes as you weave using a pattern. Common patterns include over 3 under 2, or over 2, under 1. There are many different variations of twill weaving that can be made really fancy with colors, materials and more complex designs like the quadrifoye. Below are are several baskets that I've created using tree bark and a twill basket weaving technique.
I really love random weaving because it's the closest weaving technique to the forms and processes we see in nature used in bird nests. Although it is random, there's definitely a process to making it look that way. In particular, I start with creating a frame out of rigid materials (usually grapevine) and then layering in flat pieces of bark, followed by smaller, more flexible material like wisteria and bittersweet, finishing with fine layers of metal and honeysuckle vines. I also enjoy random weaving over the top of twilled and twined baskets for a beautiful layered effect, reminiscent of Japanese ikebana baskets. Here's some examples of my work below.
Last but not least is the technique that I actually started with over 30 years ago, and that's rib basketry. When I started making baskets in college, it was after experimenting with kudzu vine at a summer camp I was working at and then finding a book on basketry shortly after arriving back at college that fall. The book covered a variety of weaving techniques, but rib baskets is where I started. I soon found the construction of these traditional forms almost addictive and spent every free moment harvesting and making. Here's some examples of traditional rib baskets (with an organic flair) I've created over the years.
I hope these baskets give you inspiration to start trying these basket weaving techniques yourself. As you get started, be sure to download my free PDF, 7 Tips for Making Baskets with Natural Materials.
Baskets from the Garden: Harvesting Day Lily & Iris Foliage for Basket Weaving.
Fall weather brings the changing of colors and seasons. Cool air wisps through the trees, flowers begin to fade, seeds drop for next years blooms and foliage wilts. It can seem like a really depressing time in the garden, but not for the basketmaker!
While there's little to look forward to in fall garden cleanup, nothing is better than working in the garden on a cool fall day only to stop, gather and weave some daylily foliage. A welcome respite to the mundane nature of pruning and mulching.
**GET MY ONLINE BASKETRY COURSE, Twining with Soft Natural Materials**
Basketry is about so much more than product… it’s the meditative process of creating, an invitation to slow down and listen. And for me, it's always been a bit of an escape from the rushed schedule of daily life. A walk in the woods. The discovery of materials. The adventure of preparation. The unlimited opportunities that lay waiting in the studio with materials so purposefully gathered.
As a professional basketry artist for now approaching 30 years, I can say without question my favorite times weaving are still sitting on the ground, in the garden with fresh materials... no prep, no plan. Just materials and me. It's from that place that my artistic voice has emerged and my commercial work has prospered. People can feel the intent, the love, the purpose in my work and that means everything.
Harvesting Day Lily Foliage for Basket Weaving
As with most things in art, there's rarely a "right way" to do anything... only the way that works for you. However, over the years I've found that I harvest day lily foliage in two primary ways: collected during the growing season and cut at the end of the season.
When daylily foliage is growing, it's always putting on new growth from the center of the plant, and pushing the old foliage down to the sides. Eventually, that foliage dries, wilts and dies while still connected to the plant. It doesn't look great and it's best to remove it so as to give your plant "breathing room." This foliage, in my opinion, is the best for weaving. Nothing beats the preparation nature provides in the natural wilting process. Once you harvest these, simply let them dry completely and then store in a cool, dry place until ready to use.
You can also cut day lily foliage at the end of the growing season. I usually wait until the first frost so it begins to wilt and yellow but doesn't ruin. Again, let it dry completely in a cool, dry place and then store until ready for usage.
You'll notice that different varieties of daylily (and iris) have different kinds of foliage. Some are longer and fatter than others. Of course, being a basket maker, I choose my flowers by the length of foliage they provide, long being best.
Other Foliage for basket weaving
Just because I'm talking about day lily and iris foliage doesn't mean you can't use other foliage available in the garden. Some of my other favorites include daffodil (usually harvested in the spring after blooming, giving the plant a few weeks to rest and begin to wilt.) Also other common plants like red hot poker, crocosmia and many others. Daffodil sap in particular can be irritating to the skin, so be careful as you harvest. Wear gloves, long sleeves, avoid touching your face and be sure to wash up thoroughly after harvesting.
Enjoy the season and take time to walk through your garden to harvest materials for basket weaving. For more on harvesting natural materials, be sure to download my free PDF 7 Tips for Harvesting Natural Materials.
Natural Basketry Resource Guide
For years now, I've been asked by my students and followers alike to put together a simple guide for using natural basket weaving materials. Things like where and when to harvest, how to protect and store basket weaving materials and even common tools used in the process of making a basket.
Well, I finally did it! And you can download it for free right here: http://www.matttommey.com/basket-weaving-classes.html
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
I was privileged this year to be asked again for a sculptural work to be featured in the Cashiers Designer Showhouse to benefit the Cashiers Historical Society. My piece was featured on the front porch of this modern rustic luxury mountain cottage in Silver Run Reserve. The porch was designed by Ann Sherrill, owner and lead designer at Rusticks in Cashiers and it was a show stopper to be sure!
I love creating special pieces like this one because they work both indoors or on a covered porch like this one. It's a truly versatile piece that brings the whimsy and beauty of nature into the living environment.
This beauty is now available! 50” x 25” wall hanging perfect for interiors or a fully covered porch. $3,295. Complimentary delivery and installation for WNC residents. Email me for purchase inquiries.
About the Cashiers Designer Show House
"Sprawling across nearly 300 acres of natural beauty and adjoining the Nantahala National Forest, lies Silver Run Reserve, the location of the 2020 Cashiers Designer Showhouse (CDS). Silver Run was originally assembled by the civic-minded Neely family as a private family estate nearly 40 years ago. Located within the prestigious southern corridor of Cashiers, Silver Run is in the midst of a revival as it is being transformed into a private, low-density, wonderfully amenitized mountain community.
The 2020 Showhouse is a 3,000-square-foot Mountain Modern Cottage, custom-designed by the renowned Meyer Greeson Paullin Benson firm and built by Cashiers’ own Harris Custom Builders. With beautiful mountain and wooded views, and close to the center of the community and The Lodge, the Showhouse is surrounded by tranquility and beauty. Leading local, regional, and national interior designers will grace one of Cashiers' most storied properties with a collective aesthetic vision for a once-in-a-lifetime Showhouse.
The Cashiers Designer Showhouse is the Cashiers Historical Society's signature fundraising event. In partnership with Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, CDS raises vital funds to support our mission and cultural programming." - CashiersHistoricalSociety.org
I'm excited to announce the launch of "The Thriving Christian Artist" podcast for artists who want to bust through roadblocks that have held them back for years, create the art they love and live the life the they know God created them to live as an artist in His Kingdom.
During each season of the podcast, I'll be sharing encouraging teaching and inspiration from my own journey as an artist plus interviews with both emerging and established artists in every creative medium who are thriving artistically, spiritually and in their business.
You can listen, subscribe and review my podcast via iTunes, Stitcher, GooglePlay or my website www.MattTommeyMentoring.com/podcast
After hosting a local garden club at my studio earlier this spring for a program centered around my sculptural work, one of the members asked me to create a special piece for her home. This was a new home for her and completely different that any other aesthetic she'd ever employed within her design background. The space features cool, calm colors, modern lines and beautiful windows overlooking a spectacular garden. Enjoy!
Vertical Sculpture for Sofa Table for a Luxury Mountain Home in The Cliffs at Walnut Cove
Dining Room Table Sculpture for French-Inspired Mountain Home in The Cliffs at Walnut Cove
"Working with Matt was a wonderful experience. I described what I wanted for my dining room table and he created exactly what I had envisioned. He didn’t mind my input at all as some artists do. I was absolutely thrilled with the result." ~ Nancy N.
Collection of Sculptural Art Baskets for a Modern Mountain Home at The Cliffs in Arden, NC
"We met Matt one day as we happened to stroll into his studio where he stopped weaving a basket to introduce himself and from there an instant friendship was formed. His beautiful pieces of art are easy to admire and love. Each piece has its own story from Matt's treks into the forests to collect the raw materials to the finished product. Matt's humble and genial manner made it easy for two relatively uneducated, but keen art lovers to know we had to have his work in our home. He created three beautiful, one of a kind pieces which feature in our home." Marty & Peter V, Clients.
Matt Tommey is a sculptural basketry artist working in Asheville, North Carolina's River Arts District.