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Scran Bags & Levvers

Here are couple of shots of the basket I was demonstrating at the fantastic Hop Festival & Traditional Skills Fayre at Ventnor Botanic Gardens organised by the West Wight Landscape Partnerships. It's an Isle of Wight Farmer's lunch basket variously called a 'scran bag', 'fraail basket', 'nammet bag' or in this instance as it's stitched and braided Yellow Flag or Iris leaves 'levver basket'. It has pretty good credentials having been documented in W.H.Long's Dictionary of the Isle of Wight Dialect published in 1886.

It took a good two days to make the bag - with a bit of nattering alongside and is now drying out ready for use as my own lunch & tool basket. Do you know anything about this local basket? Any details would be most welcome and will help with my further researches into the Isle of Wight's distinctive basketry tradition. Just off to get my 'dewbit'.............

My display at the Traditional Skills Fayre, September 2010

My 'levver bag' after two days braiding, stitching & chatting...

Them 'levvers'.....

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Reader Comments (5)

Forgot to mention that the lid is just finished and not in the photos..........will post one shortly.

October 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Johnson

Very beautiful work and photography - all of it. I am curious to know what your first encounter with basketmaking was?

October 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerence McSweeney

Hi Terence and thankyou for dropping by.

Like most creative paths it's a long & convoluted one - I bought my first basket as a teenager with money I saved up from my paper round & I remember borrowing Dorothy Wright's 'The Complete Book of Baskets & Basketry' from the local library. I studied Fine Art at college during the 1980s and was always interested in baskets but never took the next step - I guess I just didn't think about it & never came across any living makers.

Later living in Donegal I worked with all kinds of natural materials and started weaving during sculpture projects on the west coast under my own steam and without tuition. I developed a body of large works through the 90's using willow, bamboo, birch and all kinds of brushwood alongside my other artworks and installations.

In 1998 I applied and was accepted for a sculpture residency in Cheshire, I suddenly found myself amongst the very much alive and vibrant British basket making scene of which previously I had been completely unaware. Working with the renowned and now good friend Mary Butcher, I was introduced to traditional techniques and the diversity of the European tradition.

Today I like to keep my feet in both camps - learning traditional techniques, making baskets and experimenting with contemporary ways.

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Johnson

Thanks for the thorough answer. I'm 21 and studying osteopathy but have grown up around basketmaking in Co. Waterford. I am trying to combine willow, wood, art, and study which is a great challenge. This is why I find your seemingly effortless mix of art and workmanship so inspiring. Take a look at my blog here http://drumcannon.blogspot.com/ if you have a a chance.

ps. Nice choice of axe I see in your latest post.

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerence McSweeney

Your work looks good too - nice spoons! I've been thinking about making a pole lathe also - it would be good to make some everyday simple bowls, plates & spoons for my family.
Also I'm very interested in making some wooden molds for baskets in the French tradition so turning wood could be very useful to me. Have you made those spoons that you start on the pole lathe & then split down the middle to create a pair?

I enjoy working in a variety of media & always have - for me working in craft & art combines the traditions of handwork & creativity and a little thoughfulness.

yep - the Swedish carver is a nice blade!

October 12, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Tim Johnson]
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