Baskets are an extension of pots and vessels that feel like a celebration, expansive and joyous. It is surprising how rarely we make them and how rarely we see them, because they are so much fun to create. Think Italian! – Completely unnecessary curves and abundant decoration. I’m always reminded of Betty Woodman. Her pillow pitchers are well known and beautiful, but she also made extravagant serving dishes and “baskets”. Zan Barnes in North Carolina often adds handles that arch high above forms that are playful and dancing.
What’s the celebration? Earth? Flowers? Spring? Abundance? Renewal? Whatever it is for the moment, these forms will serve to remind us of this part of our spirit, even if they are sitting beautifully empty on a shelf. They will also serve us in every season where an abundant table is set, as a centerpiece, or doing their thing for birthdays or anniversary. Even if they feel indulgent and unnecessary, they have their necessary place in our hearts and in our repertoire as potters.
The forming of a basket often includes the alteration of the cylinder or circle to an oval or softened shape of squares and rectangles. Immediately this change in format tells you something special is up. Often, ceramic baskets make reference to the woven vessels they are inspired from. They demand a little craftsmanship and paying attention to the stages of drying to make it all come together. Thrown and slab forms will need to come to a flexible but sturdy state to form, attach handles, and smooth edges. Extensions of handles have to be carefully dried and watched carefully in loading kilns so they are not snapped off. The very shape encourages experimentation in glazing and possible designs in underglazes. A basket form is a sculpture and so it needs to be looked at from every side.
Find something to inspire and give it a try!