In September of 2013, with support from a 2012 GAP from Artist Trust, I traveled to Sardinia, Italy, to research into the method of Sardinian basketry. Away from the large towns, in four unique villages, I located basket weavers still creating their art using their locally gathered, natural materials.
In the southern town of Sinnai, I spent time with a younger weaver who coiled with straw and cane. While keeping with traditional designs, she experimented with new shapes. Alessandra shared her preparation of the materials and explained, in Italian, her method of coiling, but the visual lesson was worth a thousand words.
Further up the West Coast of Italy, the asphodel plant is used. The material preparation is much different but the coiling technique is the same. This weaver kept the tradition alive and was very excited to demonstrate the way this native plant, the oldest documented, is processed.
The pride in this 4000-year-old tradition is evident everywhere, with the old baskets proudly displayed in every business and home. Through a chance connection in a remote restaurant, which had locally woven baskets being used, I was invited to the home of a 90-year-old basketmaker named Rosa. She lives with her extended family in a small village called Seneghe. Rosa spoke only the old language of Sardo, however her pride and visual manipulation of the cane and straw were all that was needed to witness the art.
In the village of San Vero Milis, I learned about the “Palma nana.” Giovanna’s skill was passed down to her from many generations. Through a translator she explained the gathering and preparation while she coiled a basket and was so excited to meet an American basketmaker.
Towards the end of the journey I reached the town of Castelsardo, well known for its basket museum. This collection displays the entire range of materials and basketry techniques used throughout the island of Sardinia. Many weavers sit in their doorways weaving for tourists.
Yet it was in the other small villages where I experienced the Sardinian passion for the art of basketry. I witnessed their skill and patience in how they prepare their materials. This time-honored tradition of coiling may likely emerge in my work as a result of my connections with the Sardinians.
This rare opportunity was made a reality through the existence of my Artist Trust GAP.
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