I love to travel and when I do, I look for natural handmade local items that reflect the spirit of the place and people. One of my favorite things over the years to collect is baskets. They are so simple and functional, yet portray a tidy picture of days of work, sweat and meticulous attention to detail put in by, most often, the local women. Basket weaving is an age old craft that for me is elevated to an art form by so many talented artisans around the world who work with simple natural materials like bamboo and grass and utilize their humble hands to create something beautiful. Here are a few of my favorites. This one first, from Mallorca, Spain is by far my most treasured basket. It has become a functional piece of art for me and I have used it so often, that it can no longer carry much, cracked and split as it is. I love it still.
Gleefully, I found this near replica in a Senegalese shop in Adams Morgan Washington, D.C. Amazing how close to Spain, Senegal seems when you look at how similar these two woven bags are.
In Ochos Rios, Jamaica, I stumbled upon this gem at a Dunn’s River Falls curious shop. I love the detail of the Jamaican flag colors weaved in. And the lid just adds a lovely special touch.
Against all odds, I carried this stunner in my luggage all the way back from Lagos, Nigeria. I saw it on the road during a typical Lagos go-slow, but by the time I could get the sellers attention, the traffic had sped up again. I searched for days for the same traveling salesman and happily found him outside of the popular Chocolate Royale Restaurant.
This one, too, is from the Senegalese shop and when I couldn’t decide between it and the aforementioned one, I opted for both. They are both handmade by the Wolof weavers of Dakar with the local ubiquitous palm fronds.
This handy one is from Ghana. A gift from a dear friend.
Amazed I was, to find this blue version of my beloved baskets in Paris near Montmartre. The Cameroonian vendor refused to barter with me in the old style and stood firm on its 40euro price tag. He reasoned that I had probably seen lots of baskets but never a bleu one. And of this, he was right.
This I found at a local second hand store in Sausalito, California, so I can only imagine its roots. Lovely, it is, still.
I love this bamboo steamer form Pearl River Mart on Canal St. NYC. It is by far the most used of all my “baskets” as it is a weekly steamer of my daughter’s favorite Tamales, a Mexican delicacy that I will devote ample time to in another post.
And this one, courtesy of a Miami rummage sale, is clearly a modern interpretation of this old world craft. I bought it for its relationship to the others and how it embraces their structure and style, if not their purity.
As you can see, it is very similar to this traditional one that I found in Muleje, Baja.
Further down in Todos Santos, Mexico, I had the luck of discovering this wooden version of the classic, which fits loosely in the basket category. I adore it all the same. Handmade and still smelling of the recycled wood that was used to carve it, it holds some of my most beloved possessions.
And once again, in Lagos, this time at the hands of an intrepid basket seller in front of The American International School where I taught for a short time, I found this beauty.
I am sure that these treasures are what inspire my crochet designs, since I do not yet know how to weave, I take out my love for baskets on my colorful yarn. With it I make my own version of these humble, yet practical works of art.