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Weaving a future

When thinking about how countries can become more resilient to flooding, the weaving in different ways became an important theme.


The action of weaving combines together strong, flexible and sustainable materials, such as willow, flax, bamboo, ratan, bullrush, and many more plant-based materials to produce woven elements that are and durable and biodegradable. The example given here is the weaving of willow baskets. 


These materials are symbolic of society as a whole, such as thoughts, emotions, ideas, disciplines, cultures, institutional frameworks. Interweaving different ways of weaving and an eclectic source of materials has the possibility to create a fabric of societal resilience to adapt to increasing flood events and to reduce activities that cause climate change.

To develop the concept of weaving our future, we introduce the work of Helen Jackson - a basket weaver from the Dee River, Aberdeenshire, UK.

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“When you make a basket, it is important to make sure its structure is right, otherwise it will fall apart.”

Helen Jackson, Basket Weaver

Making a basket

  Things that Helen considers important for basket weaving are:

  • Planning, selecting and preparing the correct material for a basket.

  • Soaking the willow for the correct amount of time. For example, In the winter it might take longer because the water is cold, when the water is slightly warmer in the summer it may not take so long.

  • Mellowing the willow; this means leaving it for a few hours or over night, after soaking. This makes the willow much more flexible.  I think it’s like a stew, soup or curry when it always taste better the next day.

  • The base is made first. A solid well made base makes it much easier to make a good basket. 

  • The uprights are put into the base and secured usually by a wale which is a very strong weave that connects the two elements together.

The structure of the exhibited basket:

Helen Jackson, Willow Basket, 2023

When I made this basket, the first inch or so of weaving has a three rod wale, which uses three rods of willow. The bulk of the weaving up the sides is double French randing.  There are a number of ways to do randing, but I like the double French randing method because it gives an even weave. There are 24 uprights in this basket, so there are 24 rods in a set of weavers, I used double.  The weave is the same one used for Baskets made to sieve or  strain water from drains. These baskets are still used today  locally where I live because they are flexible and light. The next change in weave is the three rod wale again which provides strength at the rim of the basket and a solid base for putting on the border. The border is a “behind two infront of 3”. The willow stick handle was attached using a couple of the uprights.  In my mind I think I was thinking of an old well when I thought about attaching the stick handle. For me it is resembles the pulley.


To read more about Helen Jackson's work go to her website

The various woven pieces in the exhibition are examples of basket weaving, which show the many ways willow can be woven, braided, and knotted to make items that are strong and resilient. The pieces show that if the basket is not woven correctly they can easily fall apart. Weaving is an interesting metaphor in thinking about how a resilient future can be made when living with rivers.

The basket pieces on the wall

Helen Jackson

Oval Underfoot base, 2023

Oval Underfoot base.  Cut in half.  This is a very strong base (when it’s not cut in half).  This was made with a slight dome

Helen Jackson

Kishie , 2023

Kishie - a Shetland Kishie or a Caisie in Orkney:  the body was traditionally made or oat straw or sometimes dockens (a fibrous plant) twined with soft rush (field rush/juncus effuses) which was made into rope called simmens .  They were carried, usually by women, to bring home the peat for the fire and other things.

Helen Jackson

Tapestry Weave , 2023

Tapestry Weave:  I call it this but the principals of this weave might be used within a basket for the purposes of such a packing, to raise an area of weaving.  It’s was really just me playing around.

Helen Jackson

Continuous Spiral braid, 2023

Continuous spiral plait/braid, now referred to as Neolithic weave.  As long as the final working end is tied in, the structure is much more stable than weaving.  Recently discovered that this technique was used to make what is now called the Hayve an Orkney bait basket made of soft rush and used by fishermen.  You could try cutting this one in half and see what happens!

Helen Jackson

Was going to be a fish, 2023

Random piece which was going to be a fish! Just testing out how to make a fish.

Helen Jackson

Spiral plait, 2023

Testing out making a spiral plait or braid. When trying new things. It is important to try making something.

Helen Jackson

Round Base, 2023

Weave used is pairing, using two rods of willow which cross over each other.  A dome is woven into the shape for two reasons:  1.  A flat bottom may rock on a surface, so it’s helped by sitting on the outside rim.  2.  With the convex side of the dome on the inside of the basket any weight carried will push the stakes out, while a flat bottomed base may sag. I’ve trimmed the back so that you can pin it to the wall.

Helen Jackson

A wale, 2023

A random thing that stays reasonably together because the weaving is a wale.

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