• Martha Bird

During this unexpected pandemic Stay At Home time, it's been a challenge to figure out how to channel my creativity when so many emotions are on the surface. I was able to clearly identify my desire to "go back to the basics" and create a "basket" that was functional and useful. Here's how I created this basket-type sculpture:

Soak some 10 foot willow for 10 days, mellow it for 1 day and then begin by "breaking the fibers" over my knee so that I can begin to shape it.

The one on the left is ready to be used as a stake.

Push them into the dirt.

Trim the very long ends so they are manageable.

Begin to weave it in place by bending over and moving continuously around in a circle.

Imagine this...keep weaving up the sides, going round and round, bent fully over, stakes resting on my shoulders and my head in the open space between the stakes.

Quandary 1: When the sides are high enough, how to secure those very long stakes so the weaving is held in place?

Bend them over and tuck them in to fashion a rim!

Quandary 2: How to keep the willow sticks that are pushed into the dirt, from beginning to break down and deteriorate?

Remove the "basket," turn it upside down, trim the part of the willow that was pushed into the dirt AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO SECURE THE BOTTOM so the weaving doesn't fall out.

Add metal stakes to the structure so that the metal will be pushed into the dirt (see red circles).

Tie the peonies together, so the willow 'basket" will fit back over the top.

Violá!! A beautiful structure that supports the peonies in a way that they won't fall to the earth when it rains. And, it can be removed over the winter so that it can be used year after year.

"Beauties--all my different sortings.

Ready to begin and see where it goes today. Diving in."

"This part I love.

SO MUCH hand strength needed to pull and twist to keep it tight.

You'll see a broken one in there. Just under the top 2 sticking out to the left. The hazards of weaving. Have to leave it, won't be noticed later (I've learned), and going back to redo is worse as it is all tight now and can't remain that way if I undo."

"How I have to hold it with my left hand before counting back 4 pairs and drawing one of the 4th pair up and over to rest on my left forefinger."

"Now I have to go in with awl and Vaseline to try and make space, in the tight braid, for 2 more sticks to be added on either side of the single. I have the awl in 1 space, will add a stick, then will go to the tiny hole to the right of the awl (you can see the table in that tiny hole).

Takes So Much strength! Only leverage is the pointy sticks into my palm. Adding a total of 26 to the already 17 I started with."

"Original braid with all 26 extra sticks added.

Rest...before beginning the I-feel-like-I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing weave (that seems to turn out every time)."

Another view. Time to undo the wire holding the original sticks together and "make a spiral."

"I can only do what the materials allow me to do...

had to take a break and add in more sticks to keep going round...

no idea how it will resolve.

Welcome to the world of my unknown. In other words, how the hell am I going to get out of this to be able to complete something.”

The material speaks, and I listen.

Up and over the head.

"Now I see...

I need to add more sticks on the right while I'm weaving to complete the spiral.

Don't know if I have enough. I have what I have, will breathe and keep going."

"I am f***ing amazed that I am pulling this off!

Halfway round more to go and I will have come out triumphant AGAIN, with no idea how!"

"Uh oh, not supposed to count the chickens before they're hatched.

I ran out,

nothing to secure the last 10 inches,

which means the WHOLE thing is not secure.

Going to sit and study it and think."

"Tried winding, didn't work.

Luckily a new technique 'Japanese eye' is working.

Doing a series to secure.



Now clean up, and

decide tomorrow about cutting off stray branches or doing more with it."

Final views.

"So many things that are visually pleasing to me in this piece."

Thanks to funding from the MN State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant, I was able to hire a wonderful person to make and create boxes and systems of attachment for my sculptures. On September 8th I will be able to safely pack these boxes in a trailer and hit the road to Fergus Falls, Minnesota! I will help install them for the September 11, 2019 opening! Sculptural works at the Kaddatz Galleries and traditional baskets at the Otter Tail County Historical Society.


© 2020 Martha Bird

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Recipient of the Artist Initiative grant, 2019