(Non)-artefacts made with both soft and hard materials.
How i got started with fibre arts, was how i started to understand that every object made has a hidden story. But how do we recover these stories and attempt a new continuity?
Working within a craft tradition means having respect for, rather than strict adherence to, the techniques and lore that form that tradition. A tradition that is not changing and renewing itself becomes stagnant and dies, and it is hoped that by taking this first step in learning the craft tradition, this will not only persuade oneself to re-evaluate the traditional baskets, but to work with craftsmen from other disciplines to find new meaning.
I began the process with field research with an observation of the ways of making and using objects from the region. Popular basketry, in other words, that which is done traditionally by fishermen, farmers, cattlemen, people, for whom the making of the baskets or similar things is just one of the many activities that they do in their daily life. The inherited knowledge were shared by Carlos, from his long stays with the old people, who lived in the remotest places of the Spanish geography. These inheritors of knowledge, are now, with hardly any generational renewal, died with them.
Such folk experience enables a reflection on the cultural identity of the region, and i intend to work for the next years on crossing the traditional techniques for gradual and reasonable cultural development.
Upcoming weaving lesson at Basque Country, with Esparto grass and rush as the main weaving material.
Rural morse code
While I was exploring and trying to understand the part of the Europe where I live, I made a visit to the historical town of basketmaking. Unlike many societies around the world, Germany went through a significant early decline on the basketmaking craft. Due to the post-war, economic growth and the import of cheaper products from abroad led the craft industry into the end.
Though among villages such as Dahlhausen, Lichtenfels, Emsdetten and etc. did went through a peak of basketry production period, and later developed into a small furniture industry. Today, the purchase of German wickerwork is a matter of taste, less of everyday needs. Weavers have become designers, making unique pieces, weaved stair rails, shelves, room dividers and even door handles.
Second picture from the top: The weaving of the skinned willow is possible only on wooden forms to achieve the exact basket forms wanted. The forms were the property of basket traders.
Together with the Master students of Eco-Social Design of the Free University of Bolzano and Bianca Elzenbaumer from the Brave New Alps, we made a land survey in a commune, Stilfs, a two-hour drive away from Bolzano. Our walk was accompanied by a resident smallholder herbal farmer, Siegfried Platzer. Siegfried told of the past, present and prospects of the area, giving us an insight into the problems faced by Alpine states*, and its submission to monoculture practices.
He explained instead, in order to avoid high production costs, the lower land area could be equally cultivated. The soil has been healthily cultivated thanks to his aged-old ancestral knowledge maintaining the soil biodiversity. Furthermore, the plantation is situated in the low wind speed area. As the wind plays an important factor for the soil (humus), it helps reduce the removal of the surface layer of the soil or can deposit a mantle sediment on it, resulting in high vegetation.
How do we solve or create new economies, other than depending on monoculture? How can a fallow land be developed into liveable space? How can one use the partially fallow land above the village in a sustainable and well-oriented way?
* The problem of Alpine States: The agricultural production is hampered by natural obstacles, leading to increased workloads, fewer possibilities of mechanisation, a greater need for special machinery, bad accessibility and limited possibilities of operational extension and production alternatives.
This event is organized in conjunction with the yearly conference By Design or by Disaster.
The Hma’ Meri are one of the Orang Asli ethnic groups native to western part of Malaysia. Similar to many indigenous tribes worldwide, due to modernisation and land gazettement, these temporary settlers used to live along river estuaries on the island of Pulau Carey and on the mainland as they were dependent on both the sea and land for food, shelter and transport.
Due to oil palm plantation development, the natural resources depleted, keeping the sea out, dooming their mudflats, bakau and fishing grounds. Today there are only a handful of wild places on the entire island. Yet, the Orang Asli are neither against the plantation or development in principle, for it has given them many modern facilities and helped educate their children. In exchange of these modernisation, many of the Aslian’s customs and traditional handcrafts are either forgotten, or lost.
Alarmed by the declining interest in pandanus weaving (anyam hake’), I started my learning, research and documentation via my visits to some of the remaining villages which still practices the handcraftmaking for living.
One of the most prominent weavings from this native is anyam dawud, in which nipah leaflets
(mangrove palm) are woven as decorations for spirit houses, altars, homes and even jo-oh dancers. These are similar to leaf-weavings of other Orang Asli and indigenous peoples in many parts of the world. Occasionally mistaken as similar to Japanese origami (which is the craft of folding paper), anyam dawud however relies on a combination of weaving and plaiting strips of nipah leaflets.
Another form of weaving is anyam dawud in which nipah leaflets are woven as decorations for spirit houses, altars, homes and even jo-oh dancers. These are similar to leaf-weavings of other Orang Asli and indigenous peoples in many parts of the world. Occasionally mistaken as similar to Japanese origami (which is the craft of folding paper), anyam dawud however relies on a combination of weaving and plaiting strips of nipah leaflets. Nipah is easier to weave compared to hake’ as it requires almost no processing, but it is very difficult to extract from the nipah groves which only thrive in muddy river estuaries. As there are no nipah groves within our village, they have to travel via motorcycle to Sungai Kuang and beyond for their supplies.
According to Gomo’ Che’ Yah Unyan and Maznah Unyan, the plants and animals that they weave in nipah feature in ancestor’ stories or came to them in their dreams. Occasionally they’ll create new designs or modify existing ones. Common ornaments include flowers, birds, fishes, prawns and horseshoe crabs. There are also special ornaments like the tombak muyang (ancestor’s spear) and ‘spirit flowers’ which are only woven for ritual occasions.
With the fascination for local materials, i came to learn about the late Anne Reichert's experimental archeological work which consists of reconstruction of Neolithic and Bronze Age textile materials, such as plant fibres and barks from the trees (Birch, beech, oak, spruce, lime, poplar, wild cherry, etc.), grasses, sedges, rushes and plant fibres (nettle, flax, hemp).
Experiments were carried out on the production technique of different braids from shore settlements on Lake Constance, Federsee and on the Swiss Lakes, experiments on the so-called "rheumatic sole" of Zug (CH) and on the carrying method of the Ötzi mat and his shoes.
The museum features one of the largest remnants of prehistoric lake dwelling settlements of both the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, and the hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic.
Le Laténium, Neuchâtel
During the 2-day residence, locals, new arrivals and visitors to the village gathered at a workshop, initiated by design researcher and placemaker Jan Lindenberg in Gerswalde. Actors such as architects, designers, artists and craftsmakers were placed in groups for a collaborative effort to find new ideas in enabling a socio-cultural craft-based platform, both for making things and making things happen. Among other agendas were the possible effective measures taken to communicate externally (publicising via word of mouth) and internally (formation of design language) within the agendas and sensitivities of the locals. An inclusive approach was taken in consideration of building rapport with the locals to encourage participation.
In the coming year, a project and gallery space Löwen.haus will be launched with the concept of an open workshop and a meeting place in mind. Long-time residents and visitors to the village have the opportunity here to explore, develop and pass on their creative potential.
Together with designers, artists, farmers and technologists, local, traditional craft and everyday techniques could be discovered and revived via workshops and courses. This initiation will be developed further with new digital techniques and production techniques from other cultures.
January 27th, Gerswalde
Perhaps more importantly, while acknowledging our over-consumptive food production system at present, it is hardly necessary to be observant nor it is believable one could wild horseradish on our neighbourhood green pasture.
While there are some foods (nettles, wild garlic, elderflowers, blackberries and sweet chestnuts) which are relatively safe bet in terms of identification, it goes without saying that you need to be 100% sure that what you're eating is definitely what you think it is. For instance, wild chervil is a delicious herb, but it also looks almost identical to hemlock, a deadly plant that will dispatch you into the realm of 'rookie ex-forager' with an alarming degree of haste. Even if you're completely sure that you've got the right thing, it's standard practice to try a small amount first to rather than dive straight into a bowlful of what you've just found.
I have been following Jonathan Hamnett, a forager, for past two years on a quest to be at least 20% self-sufficient on good weather seasons. All foraging activities are sustainably carried out.
A year long foraging and reconnecting with the earth.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” —Henry David Thoreau
By acknowledging the impact of late capitalism, we should look into reclaiming skills and developing methods for sustainable co-existence, including how to feed, shelter, and heal ourselves with the plants, animals and materials occurring naturally in our bioregions. It is also said to include the dismantling of the physical manifestations, apparatus and infrastructure of civilisation.
The hands that reap is about learning the hunter-gatherer way to be less dependent on the system of the agricultural societies. Hunting and gathering was humanity’s first and most successful adaptation, occupying at least 90 percent of human history.
In the modern context of hunter-gatherer culture, it is also described as having an emotional component, which involves healing ourselves and each other from what are perceived as 10,000-year-old wounds, learning how to live together in non-hierarchical and non-oppressive communities, and de-constructing the domesticating mindset in our social patterns.
To the nature-dwellers, “foraging includes prioritising direct experience and passion over mediation and alienation, re-thinking every dynamic and aspect of reality, connecting with our feral fury to defend our lives and to fight for a liberated existence, developing more trust in our intuition and being more connected to our instincts, and regaining the balance that has been virtually destroyed after thousands of years of patriarchal control and domestication.”
Dyeing with natural colors
The dye ingredients are: red cabbage, orange osage, yellow onion, black bean, pomegranate, acorn, elderberry, japanese maple, nettles and indigo.
Whether you call it cordage, rope, string or twine, it’s all made from something, but “from what?” is not a question that many people think to ask. More often than not the strongest, the finest, and the most utilitarian types of cordage can be made from some common plant or grass that is growing right nearby.
In this workshop i have learned how to identify, harvest and process a variety of different cordage plants and materials. When it comes to making cordage we’ll go much further than just your basic reverse wrap. 3-ply cordage, thigh rolling, plaited loops and bowstrings, along with cordage options from animal parts such as sinew and rawhide.
The ability to make fire is the most important of all the survival skills. Fire is Shelter. Fire provides safe water. Fire cooks our food. Fire provides us with light, comfort and safety in the night. Fire is Life. Fire is also physics, and once you understand universal laws that dictate how and why fire comes into being, your ability to make a roaring, smoke-free fire will increase exponentially.
Making Pitch Sticks: the natural glue
My life path made a peak turn when I made my journey to Staten Island in late 2017, learning and living with artist Tattfoo Tan. With the similar interest on issues relating to ecology, sustainability and healthy living, his work placed a huge influence on me with that of making practice focusing on learning and mastering new skills and forms of knowledge to mobilise and integrate communities towards a common goal. Learn-Practice-Teach.