During August I joined four basketmakers from the Catalan Basketmakers Association - Mònica Guilera, Carles Alcoy, Joan Farré Oliver and Josep Mercader, to work on a project together in Mas de Barberans, the week preceding the town's annual basketry fair. Our proposal was to create a large shelter from locally harvested materials beside the town's brand new swimming pool creating shade from the blazing sun of southern Catalonia.
Bare foot cane climbing!
Over the four days of the project we worked early and late - avoiding the hottest part of the day, we built the main structure from the large bamboo-like European Cane Arundo donax, the same stuff that bassoon and oboe reeds are made from - alongside fences, roofing panels, baskets, bee hives, toys and no doubt many other things. The combination of Cane and Willow and sometimes Olive branches is a distinctive feature of Catalan basketmaking. With this in mind working alongside the makers from the Catalan Association brought a great wealth of material knowledge to compliment my own ideas about the structure and form of the project.
Monica Guilera's Asparagus basket - winner of the VI Certamen Internacional Basketry Competition 2012 in the Museu de la Pauma Mas de Barberans, featuring Willow and split Cane.
Over the first three days our shelter took form following various experiments, discussions - and of course the occasional refreshing swim in the pool - it's a tough job but someone has to do it! Cane is a very different material to Willow and Hazel - the materials I usually make similar structures with, it doesn't always do what you might expect and tends to split, crack or snap if placed under too much tension, however with practice it is a wonderfully hard, durable building material that can take on very elegant forms that we hope compliment the setting and local landscape.
The projects title 'Rafal' refers to a traditional Catalan shepherds shelter made up in the hills from whatever materials are available - a nice connection to our project and our desire to use materials that naturally fit into the landscape and have to be transported the minimum distance to be used.
Following the construction with Cane the local town council delivered a good supply of Olive branches to create a shade creating wall on one side of the shelter. These were threaded through the structure and sandwiched between canes to create easily attachable long bundles.
Antonio Rodríguez and myself hoisting an Olive sandwich! The final structure can be seen in my full website gallery here: 'Rafal', Swimming Pool Shelter Project
The last day of the project was a workshop for local makers and students to have a go at constructing a large split cane tunnel along the pathway to the pool and to assist with the Olive covering of the main shelter. Once again we were experimenting combining my 'birdweaving' techniques usually worked in willow but this time in split or cleaved Cane to make a finer material that can be worked in bundles - as long as you bend it the right way!
Our students had a great time and made a major contribution to finishing off the whole project in time for the weekends festivities and many visitors. A big thankyou to all the makers involved, the workshop participants, Mas De Barberans Town Council for supplying materials and the Museu de la Pauma Mas de Barberans who co-ordinated the whole project in advance with Mònica Guilera of the Catalan Basketmakers Association. Carles Alcoy and Joan Farré Oliver set up the split cane arches for the workshop tunnel.