Cardboard log basket

The log basket that we were using I made in traditional fashion, some years ago, with home grown willow. It didn’t however start life as a log basket, as it was made for taking washing out to the line. Since then a narrower door is used to take the washing outside. This basket was too wide to get through the door without tipping it sideways and sometimes the clean washing fell out … not a good way to start the day!

It was then requisitioned as a log basket but because it was originally meant for washing I hadn’t rapped the weaving tightly and little bits of wood and bark sifted themselves through the gaps and onto the floor. Consequently every time the basket was moved it uncovered a pile of sawdust on the floor. To deal with this I had made a highly engineered cardboard insert for the basket!

Perhaps you are getting the message from this, and from previous  posts, that, for me, good design is about making the daily tasks in life easier and more enjoyable and not about making  more housework.

So the new log basket had to deal with the sawdust problem, but I also wanted it to look more interesting and colourful than the brown willow one. I will have to look at it every day and brown makes me feel serious, it doesn’t really cheer me up.  If I am lighting the stove it is because I am cold and I need cheering up. The shape needed to be similar to the willow one, low and wide in order to relate to the shelves above it, but also to make it easy to see the choice of logs inside. It also needed to be fairly sturdy, though not too  hefty, as all it does is contain the logs.

In my stock of collected materials I found a pile of pressed card beer carriers. They came around bottles of German beer and are strong enough to hold and carry 3 litres of beer in glass bottles. I haven’t used them for anything before, which presented me with an interesting challenge, and the bright yellow design seemed ideal for the kitchen. But the carriers when opened up were not very big, so for plaiting they would have to be joined. I experimented with different ways of joining the strips and in the end decided that stapling would be efficient and quick. It seemed more honest to use staples than glue. The strips were cut quickly with a paper cutter, stapled into long lengths and then plaited into a square based basket. Various decisions had to be made about how to staple the strips together, in terms of the design on the card, and then about what order to weave them in. I also considered which way to staple the strips so that the overlap could be pulled through the weaving. I only tell you this because you would not know about these things just by looking at the finished piece! A layer of black strapping tape was then woven in on top of the strips adding protection for the card and making the pattern more defined.

Some time ago I developed a way of using bunched willow for borders on plaited baskets. I decided to employ this technique again because it works really well and you don’t have to soak the willow (always a bonus in my book). The woven card  basket, when it is only cut and stitched at the top edge, is still quite floppy but once the willow is attached it becomes tensioned and strong.  It seems as though you will never get the two ends to meet in anything other than a pointed leaf shape, but when they finally do, it forms  into a perfect ring and the basket becomes very solid. The process is a bit magical and I always enjoy doing it.

That left the handles and feet to resolve. The handles were made with two pieces of electric cable with the outer casing stripped off the ends of the wires. These were then threaded through the border to attach them. I decided that feet were necessary to protect the base of the basket from the tiled floor and used black plastic lids from coffee jars that had been given to me. I riveted these on to the base, one in each corner and one in the middle. I could have stitched them on but that will be the back up if, for any reason, the rivets fail.

When I put the basket in place and took a photo I was quite shocked to realise that my choice of technique and colour scheme had not been my decision at all. It had, in fact, been decided for me by the Scottie dog and the Mexican tiger that have stood  on the shelves above the log basket for several years!

Lois Walpole, Britain


Lois Walpole is of Anglo Scottish heritage and trained in Sculpture,  Basket Making and Design.

She works full time as an artist/basket maker taking part in and curating national and international exhibitions, working to commission, designing for production, teaching and writing.

She divides her time between the Shetland Islands and the Charente, in south west France, where her studio is based.

Her blog gives the latest about her teaching and exhibitions and is where she talks about the baskets and basket related things that she finds interesting, inspiring, infuriating and intriguing…

Her self imposed rules are “no materials purchased and basket making techniques employed wherever possible”.

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