Jan 212013

For those who have been following my slow initiation into the World of Handmaking, you know that I’ve had a long yearning to make baskets! Last summer, I even tried teaching myself using wild grasses from my garden (and the internet).

This past weekend I had the enormous fortune to study basketmaking with a master. Like many  geniuses who hide away in the forest, Joan Carrigan lives on our timid little island and is one of the world’s greatest (and sweetest) teachers of this ancient artform.

This two-day workshop took place at Jane Stafford Textiles, a gem of a venue, founded mostly for weavers. The walls are lined with elegant looms under a rainbow spectrum of threading spools. Jane’s hospitality was above and beyond anything I expected, warming our weekend with sweetness and luxury.


The moment the reeds were in my hands, I felt a deep familiarity. Of course there was a learning curve as I tried to discipline the reeds, but for the most part I felt I’d done this with my womenfolk for lifetimes.  The only thing missing was our weaving songs.

Joan’s teaching style was so clear with experience that I felt guided at every proverbial and literal turn.

Once I learned the 3-rod-whale weave, I was unstoppable – my fingers flew and my mind went silent. By the end of our first day together I had something that very nearly resembled a basket being born.



Nature’s Bounty

The next day, Joan introduced us to her wild collection of natural materials. Other than the reeds, which are native to Asia, Joan harvests all her own materials, plucking wild rush from the lake in her canoe, making alliances with tree fallers for sustainable cedar bark, and twining seagrass by hand.

Here you can see  I’ve created a band of twined seagrass and two rows of red cedar bark.

Next I attempted a technique called French Randing, which is a diagonal weave using short, flat reed pieces.

Before I knew it, I had made a beautiful basket which I’ll cherish forever.

Heart and Hands

It’s amazing how mysterious handmaking seems until we put our intention to it and realise that these ancient technologies live in our bodies and, with some gentle guidance, our heart and our hands can be coaxed back into remembering their symbiosis.

I am so deeply grateful for Joan’s teaching, which has returned this language to my fingers. I’ll never look at my autumn garden the same again!

You might also enjoy:


A writer, artist and tender of dreams, Toko-pa has been interviewed by CNN News & BBC Radio and her writing has appeared in publications around the world. Thanks to Skype, she works with dreamers internationally in her Private Dreamwork practice, based on Salt Spring Island in Canada. You can find Toko-pa on Facebook or sign up for her mailing list to receive news about upcoming events.

    Connect with Toko-pa
  • facebook
  • googleplus
  • pinterest
  • twitter
  • youtube

  11 Responses to “Beautiful Things: Baskets”

  1. Wow, beautiful. The thought of singing songs while doing this kind of work squeezes my heart 🙂 What a wonderful thing to learn (or remember).

    • Yes! Heart-squeezes! We have several women in our community who are into this special combination of singing and handmaking, so my hope is that we’ll come together and teach each other what we know over song.

      • Do you know the song, “Somos Tejedores” (We are Weavers)? It’s very beautiful….I sang it in a chorus many years ago….
        Somos Tejedores, weaving together, woven together.
        Circled by the golden threads of the Sun, we dance
        Moved by the rhythms we harvest from our hearts.
        We are the women, who glow brilliant
        Dancing as we weave, dancing as we weave…..dancing as we weave

  2. simply gorgeous!!! thank you for sharing this simple yet profound art! soooooo beautiful – and practical as there are so many ways to use a basket!

  3. beautiful color…………especially the light blue mix……and the variety of texture……..beauty…….

  4. These are so beautiful! I’m inspired!

  5. I’ve just discovered your site and love it! Love your basket! Years ago, I took a basket making class and it was so painful and taught me so much! I was the last one in class to finish..it brought up my always “being last” in school…feeling like the dumb one. It was so challenging for me but i continued over a couple of months to keep on taking classes. I have four, imperfect, beautiful baskets to show for this labor of love! One is an egg basket! My cat loved playing with the reeds as I worked on it. I would dearly love to take another class sometime. Thank you for bringing this up!!!!!

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>