After my workshop with Monica Guilera, I did another one with Tim Johnson, who works mainly with soft fibres and is highly regarded for his work exploring different natural materials and traditional techniques. This post on a previous blog of mine reviewed one of his exhibitions at Farnham in 2019.

Hayve made by Tim Johnson

At this workshop in Germany we were learning how to make a hayve (pronounced “hay-vee”), a basket used by fishermen to gather bait. Tim came across one by chance in a museum in Thurso, northern Scotland, and spent some time working out how it was made. It’s intriguing for a couple of reasons.

We worked with chair rush. The side weaving is fairly straightforward, though as ever you need to keep an eye on the shape. Most of us had finished weaving the sides by the end of the first day.

Then it’s on to that tricky base!

The base is worked flat, spiralling towards the centre in neolithic braid, discarding material as you go. Then the remaining strands are gathered into three plaits, and threaded through the base to fill in the holes. This is what it should look like.

This is what mine looked like.

Finally, a handle of sisal rope is threaded through the basket on either side.

In my experience, it’s wise to repeat a technique soon after learning it to try to consolidate the information. So back home last week I made another hayve, this time using Taiwanese rush (Cyperus malaccensis). I think it’s technically a sedge – it’s finer than chair rush with a triangular cross section. It was the first time I’ve used it and it’s lovely to work with.

I managed to shape this a bit better, but Tim pointed out that after the two rounds of the border I had divided the stakes again. The traditional method does not do this – no new stakes are added after the border. Shaping is done through changing the tension of the weave or adding material to make the weavers thicker.

At least my base was a bit neater this time!

I didn’t bother with a handle for this one as I think it might spoil the delicacy of the weave. Here are the two hayves side by side.

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2 Responses

  1. These are fabulous! I’m entranced by this method and would love to know how to start! I’m in NZ and no one I can find here uses this technique. Do you know of and good online resources?

    1. Hi Karen,

      The technique of Neolithic braiding is also known as Burkina Faso weave, so that might help you find more information.

      There is a book, The Art of Basketmaking – The Périgord Technique and Tradition by Eva Seidenfaden, which covers this technique, but I don’t know if it is available in New Zealand. However, although the hayve is made using Neolithic braiding, it is unusual in that it starts at the top rather than the base. Tim worked out the technique by analysing one of two remaining hayves in Scotland. I don’t think he’s written anything about it online (he did write a piece for the Basketmakers’ Association Newsletter a few years ago, but you have to be a member to access that). You could try contacting him directly via his Instagram account. Or save up and attend one of his hayve workshops in Europe!

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