The art of handmade date stem basketry begins with collecting the material. Some 20-30 stems—the slender branches to which the dates are attached—are connected to a thicker date palm branch known as a hand because of its resemblance to a human hand. Once a year, during autumn, after the date harvest, I visit the date plantations of the Beit Shean and Jordan Valleys and gather enough discarded date hands to last until the following year.
Palm branches are laid in a date grove.
The next step is to remove the stems from the hand and clean off all traces of date that remain on them. I then store the stems for drying over a six-month period before use.
Various basketry materials are dried for storage purposes and subsequently remoistened to soften them for weaving. Each has its own soaking time: Wicker needs only 5-10 minutes, willow four hours to seven days (including bark) and date stems about 24 hours.
Basket weaving demands planning, soaking and readying the material for use. Once moistened adequately, the material is removed from the water and dried lightly. Before weaving, the material must be sorted, primarily according to thickness. Natural plant materials may be of varying lengths and thicknesses, requiring sorting into groups comprising branches of similar size, except wicker—a natural processed material that is often pre-sorted for marketing. Each thickness has a different function in weaving.
Natural and artificial materials can be combined for decorative and æsthetic purposes, adding color and form to the finished product. For example, when working with date stems, one may include other branches of different colors, such as gum acacia and olive. Beads, seeds and anything else you can imagine may be included as well.
Beads and Dyed rattan integrated into the weaving.
Willow: All willow branches for weaving originate in Europe. There are many varieties of willow, offering a wide range of durability and color. Willow is available with or without bark. When sold with bark, willow is available in many more colors, allowing for variation of patterns and design during the weaving process.
Willow Tazka Basket.
Wicker: Wicker is the most convenient and flexible material of all. It grows in the Far East, where it is processed and shipped ready for use. Wicker branches are very long and may be sold in lengths of several meters, making it much easier to weave than other materials. They can also be painted in many different attractive colors.
A hundred years ago, before the plastic industry developed, every home had basket‑woven products for housework, shopping, storage, cribs, chairs, sofas and more. Nowadays, we all have inexpensive, synthetic, mass-produced alternatives to replace handmade basketry.
While no longer used for basic household purposes, baskets now hold a place of honor in interior design and home décor and add a bit of nature to houses made of artificial materials.
Each weaving material has its own qualities and uniqueness and attracts its own particular enthusiasts. There is a very wide selection of basketry works, each with its own character and spirit, yet coexisting in harmony so that all people may find appropriate responses to their preferences.
This website features lampshades made of natural materials, decorative fruit baskets for the living room table, floor baskets for newspapers and books, wall décor baskets for headgear and mail, imaginative mandalas that add color and beauty to your walls… and many other surprises.
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In early March 2021, I participated in an exhibition of
weaving works in NSW, Australia
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