Weaving materials differ from one another in terms of material strength and flexibility, as in the following common examples:
Willow: A popular weaving material that retains its strength even after soaking in water. The branches are only slightly flexible and must be protected from breakage throughout the weaving process. Bark-covered willow is especially hard, but far more flexible than peeled branches.
Date Stems: Much softer than willow and highly flexible after soaking.
Wicker: Very soft and flexible, but please note: A thick wicker branch can be even less flexible than willow.
I find it important to familiarize myself with the materials I use and understand why each is suitable for a given purpose. The softer the material is, the more flexible and dynamic the shapes I can create, but basket size and tooling intricacy are limited because flexible material is not strong enough to accommodate heavy tools. On the other hand, willow is strong and can be used for very large baskets, provided their form is simple and largely unmodified. For example, willow would be suitable for a laundry hamper, because it’s durable and suitable for large objects. But if I want to weave a figurine, wicker would be more appropriate because it is far easier to modify (although some artists have created willow figurines as well).
Combining different materials in one item requires thought. At times, a combination of soft and hard materials can give an item a new hue and enhance its ornamental value. If carried out carelessly, however, all such work may appear distorted. If I want to include willow in a much softer date stem basket, I will select willow branches of appropriate thickness whose material strength is similar to that of date stems.
A chair seat is usually woven of wicker or some other supple rope for maximum flexibility and comfort.
Even before working with the material, I sort it by width to suit the various parts of the basket. For example, I sort date stems into three groups: Thick, medium and thin. Willow, on the other hand, is sorted into seven degrees of thickness. Wicker is pre-processed and sold by thickness, ready for use.
I sail through the stormiest seas
While grasping the soil, grass and trees.
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