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.
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.
- It’s woven using neolithic braiding, a technique that is well known in Africa and southern Europe but that had not previously been found further north.
- Rather than starting with the base, like most baskets, the hayve is started at the border and finishes in the centre of the base. This means that there is a lot of material to get rid of at the end!
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.