Weaving a story - JOURNEY of the BASKETS, Elizabeth Stevenson-Ryan January 30 2019
Low swampy paddocks, dark green swamp reeds. Watch out for snakes, stomp my feet hard as I venture to pick them in Tasmania and Victoria. These reeds are the most desired plants for weaving into coil baskets. They smell of rain breath from plats bedded in moist soil, as I create contours bending their pliable roundness.
Gold turquoise light shines through the wave arching up to lift our yacht up into the sky, foaming a song of water music as it fizzles and rolls past. The wet towels of swamp reeds purposely lie on a long cockpit seat.
I stand up, gripping the Spray Hood edge, gazing over, to view,the ocean...to navigate, to plan ahead...for a short rest back to weaving reeds with favourite double waxed linen thread. This tread is traditionally used for canvas sail mending.
I took up basket weaving to bide the journeying hours to a destination. My weaving additions to the reeds and vines festooning the cockpit, are: seaweed, coochgrass, shells, tall tree Eucalyptus Regnans bark, native 'Shoe Lace' bush, Weeping Sheoak. My threads variable, but I mainly use Waxed Linen thread.
I have ten minutes of calm before I tighten a sail, avoid a rock, grip on tight when spotting a large'ish wave, make a cup of tea in the galley, lift with the wind,sing to a dolphin whilst lying on my stomach looking over the side of the boat. Do they want to look at me whilst I sing? One will travel along keeping eye contact with me for some time, so I believe...
Read the chart to journey on to a planned craggy tuck in the rugged Tasmanian rock coastline to then drop anchor. More weaving reeds, out of the wind. Calm. That is what my baskets are.
I learnt eel net weaving of wetland reeds with a Wurundjeri elder, Dot Peterson. She came into my ceramics classroom, for many sessions, working with the students. Reeds were collected along the Healesville creeks, and the water ribbons in the river. Her tribe had taught her as a child.
My baskets are not made in a traditional Aboriginal style, well in part, but I make up stitching techniques. I use ornamental Passionfruit and Jasmine vine at my home in Healesville, as I continue weaving baskets when not sailing.
Elizabeth Stevenson-Ryan taught Art at Healesville Secondary School for 30 years. Now retired she balances her annual sailing exploits around Tasmania with attending to her garden in Healesville.