Lot 2: son of a basket


This second item in my Silent Auction of Stories is hand-made. By me. And it has a story.

First, what is it:

This basket has been made with natural and dyed raffia, using a pierce-and-sew method. It features two side-handles. It’s a fairly large basket, being 16 cm high with a diameter of 34 cm.

Its story:

Did you know that baskets are actually just stories in another form? Each one holds stories. And you can feel these when you pick them up. They have within them the story of their creator, and how they were feeling at the time they made the basket. And the stories of the land they were made on, and the conversations overheard as each layer of the basket was created. So no wonder I, a storyteller, weave baskets.

This basket is a replica of another basket I made. Both were made early in my weaving phase. I prefer the original but this son of that basket is okay. And has an interesting tale.

In 2007 I was selected to be part of a Womad artist in residence program, facilitated by Sandy Elverd. It involved a group of textile artist from around the world, working with the Tjanpi Desert Weavers.

There were about 20 women, and we worked solidly for about five days to create an installation that was a feature of Womadelaide 2007. We created a life-sized desert camp scene – fireside, utensils, people, camp dogs and fauna all made from grasses, wool and other fibre. The basket and fibre-bushfoods on my home page were made as part of that installation. That basket has it own story – but that would be too much of a digression.

Working with the Tjanpi Weavers on that installation was an amazing experience. I learnt some new weaving techniques from some of the most prominent Aboriginal weavers in Australia. And time spent in a weaving circle is full of laughter, cultural learnings, and lots of sharing of stories.

I’d recently started the Southern Weavers Group, as part of my role as a community development officer. This project provided a regular social activity for local elders, as well as a means to talk about health, diet and lifestyle (due to funding through an arts and health program). Younger women also participated in some of the activities, such as weaving camps. It developed into a social enterprise, which is still in existence, as the elders are paid to teach weaving in schools and community events. These sessions involve raising non-Indigenous people’s awareness through sharing of stories.

I used a train-the-trainer approach, by accompanying one or more members of the group to workshops and conferences, so we could learn both business and weaving techniques from other First Peoples around Australia. Some of the women had learnt sedge-grass weaving from their elders, as children, so the program was both a re-learning their own cultural weaving and learning new techniques from other regions.

One day, while making grass-sculptures and baskets with the Tjanpi Weavers, I felt a bit guilty that I was there and not any of the elders from the Southern Weavers group. So I asked if I could invite a few, and the next day Aunty Rose came with me. Aunty is now gone, but I still remember spending that day with her and the Tjanpi weavers. That is one of the stories that are within the baskets we made.

As an artist in resident, we were provided with weekend passes to Womad, where we ran weaving workshops for attendees. I’d never been able to afford to go before, and had always been curious, so this was a little bit exciting. Until – guilt set in again.

The arts-patron that had funded the Tjanpi Weavers project at Womad popped in to check on our progress. Speaking with her, I mentioned the group I’d started and how good it would be if they could go to Womad and see this installation. So she gave me a few day passes for them.

Grateful, I gifted her with a basket. It was the original of the one pictured above. But much better. I loved that basket, but it felt right to give it away.

A few days later, I escorted a group of local elders to Womad. There wasn’t enough tickets for everyone so, as usual, I let them choose who got to go. A younger woman, who is a talented artist, missed out. She, like me, had never been able to afford Womad tickets, so she was a little bit disappointed. But it worked out ok, as all the elders got tired quickly and chose to go home. So I rang her and arranged to meet outside the gates, to give her the wrist-band that I’d asked one of the elders for. We had to take it off very carefully, to not damage it or her wrist. (shhh don’t tell Womad).

In the meantime, the group of guest artists were preparing to leave the installation tent and go see a performance. It was a singer and choir from their Country. Ahead of me a young girl was struggling to push an elder in an old wheelchair with flat tires. I jumped in and gave her a hand. Once we got to the stage, the sun was setting. The performance was amazing. And I felt privileged to have watched it in the presence of elders who were related to the performers.

As soon as it finished, I got a text to say that my friend was nearly at the gate. So I walked out to find her. Sitting under a huge fig tree was an old man. He beckoned me, so I went over there. He told me, proudly, that his son was going to perform inside the gate. He couldn’t afford a ticket, so he’d sat outside, hoping to hear the performance. The performance I’d just witnessed. I told him that his son had just been on stage. I noticed his look of disappointment at not hearing his son sing.

So I told him the story of his son’s performance. How beautiful his voice was, and the choir backing him up. I told him some of the names of the elders I’d watched the performance with, and he said they were related. I told him how some of the elders had been crying with pride. And as I told him this story, he had tears running down his cheek.

I then saw my friend, and said good-bye to him. As I walked back inside the magical space of Womad, I was a bit emotional. Firstly, because I just had an emotional interaction. And secondly, I was damn angry. Pissed off at the exclusiveness of Womad. Annoyed that even when Aboriginal people are included on the stage, we are still excluded from the audience because of those damn overpriced tickets. And deeply sad that this proud father did not get to see his son perform, in front of his kinsfolk.

Anyway, I digress once more. Later, missing the original large orange basket that I had gifted, I made this replica. Which is why it is a son of a basket. This basket might not have been at Womad, but it has been infused with the joys, creativity, sadness, and connectivity of my experiences of participating in the 2007 Womad Tjanpi Desert Weavers program.

Let the silent auction begin!

A refresher on how this will work:

  • If interested in the item, you can send me your confidential bid via twitter DM (@1KarenWyld) or by using the contact form on this website.
  • Remember to factor in packaging and postage when you are bidding.
  • Once at least one bid has hit the reserve level, I’ll close the auction and contact the highest buyer.
  • Bidding is restricted to people residing in Australia only, due to delivery costs.

If you aren’t interested in owning the item, but you did like its story, then feel free to contribute to more stories. There is a PayPal pay now button in the upper right-hand of this page. Or you can use my PayPal payme account.

Also see Lot 1: The Maiden

Reclaiming Skin: Writer as Artist


Selkie Bride Returns Home – sourced from Deviantart

Feeling dried out? Dig out that skin, slip it on and jump right in.

Each and every person has the ability to be creative. How people use their creative energy is an individual choice. The mediums of expression are endless: paint, sew, act a part, sing, cook, take pictures, dance, weave, plant a garden, play, write, make sculptures.

We create for many reasons: to express what we feel about the world around us, to discover ourselves, to let go of negativity, to let in light. While the excuses for why we don’t spend more time on artistic activities are just as diverse, the biggest obstacle is not giving yourself permission to create.

When I think of the creative self, I am reminded of the selkie. There are stories, found in many places around the world, that use different languages to tell the same tale, share the same message. The selkie tale is one of these stories; crossing cultural and geographical boundaries.

If you haven’t heard this tale before, briefly it goes like this:
A lonely fisher comes across a naked woman, who he realises is a selkie: a seal-like being that occasionally takes the form of a human, simply by peeling off their skin. He creeps up and grabs her discarded sealskin. When she protests, he uses moon-eyes to convince her to stay with him. Out of pity, she agrees. A decision she comes to regret. Stuck on land, she soon misses the ocean and starts to dry out, and becomes visibly unwell. Occasionally she begs him for her skin, promising to return to him after a much-needed swim. He always refuses, unwilling to budge. She eventually gives birth to a son, and she becomes tied to the world of humans.

Then comes that moment, when she realises that she can no longer bear being dried out. She hunts for her stolen skin, not even bothering to beg the man for its return. Some tales have the child showing her where the skin is, others have her spying on her husband, while in another version a storm uncovers the buried sealskin. There are many variations to how she finds her skin but its a certainty that she once again puts on her skin and returns to the water. At this point in the story she is often described as being torn between the love of her child and her need to go home, back to where she truly belongs; or there is the version where she dives right in, without a second glance at the shore. With or without regrets, she returns to the water: home.

Now the above is a very stark telling of a beautiful tale but, for the purpose of this post’s topic, it serves its purpose. What has this story to do with creativity, you may be asking. Well, water is often used as the symbol for emotions, higher thought and the unconscious mind; and creativity relies on these.

If creativity is the element of water, then the artist, as a creative being, is the selkie. The artist is born with a skin that can be taken off and put back on at whim;they reside mainly in the water but need the occasional timeout to sun themselves on a rocky island or hidden cove; they are often torn between the need to swim in the ocean of creativity or care for those they love (and other responsibilities); and they need to be careful that they don’t dry out too much, too often.

All well and good, but in reality there is little time to spend on our creative pursuits, such as writing. Not when there are so many people needing our attention: partners, children, parents, fur-kids, friends, and more. And don’t forget all those responsibilities that we carry (like day jobs), and the many little (and not so little) obstacles and mishaps; all stopping us from writing. And don’t get me started on writer’s block, or technological breakdowns, or non-understanding people, or lack of sales, or rejection slips, or the many other things that writers have to deal with. All of these things are real, they’re not excuses, they are legitimate reasons why we can’t write today, or yesterday, and maybe even tomorrow. Or are they?

Here is the key to this fairytale: the fisherman has not stolen our skins. Nor did we willing hand our skin over to another, even if for a noble cause such as love and responsibilities  No, we carelessly discarded them. Took them off and left them under some rock, under the pile of ironing, in the back of the wardrobe, in the bottom drawer of our desk, some dark corner of our house.

So, if you find yourself drying out, feeling not quite yourself, just go and get that discarded skin. Tch tch, there is no time for excuses, every other thing and person can wait. You won’t be gone long. Go on, dust that skin off, patch it up if you have to, and put it on. See, it still fits! Now don’t look back – just dive right in. Splash around in that water of creativity, do a belly flop if you feel like it, dive right down in to its depths. Doesn’t that feel better?

Image downloaded from Deviantart 10/4/2013 –  http://82percentevil.deviantart.com/art/Selkie-Bride-Returns-Home-62916762

Other posts in this series:

Shedding Skin: Writer as Creator –
Exposing Skin: Writer as Exhibitionist –