I would like to acknowledge the Eora and D’harawal people who are the traditional custodians of the land on which I currently live and work.  I would also like to pay respect to Elders both past and present, of the Eora and D’harawal nations.

On this road of learning, I’ve always thought of crochet as weaving.  So with my love of natural fibres, it was no surprise that I wanted give basketry a go.

I attended a workshop at First Hand Solutions’ Blak Markets with the fabulous Ronnie Jordan.  She taught me the basics of traditional coil basket weaving using raffia, while youngsters made Aboriginal toys and sculptures on the floor next to us.  It was a fantastic day with a wonderful, positive energy.

I also tried out making a circular form by applying the principles of working in the round with crochet.  It seemed to work out ok.

Ronnie gave us some gumnuts with which we could decorate our finished baskets. 

She also shared some beautiful books that illustrated the way baskets were made decorative in different indigenous styles.  You can get the idea here.

Coil weaving is not difficult, but it takes time.  So while I slowly worked the needle and raffia, I thought about how I could extend this exploration.  I decided to try dying some of the raffia with eucalyptus.  I had been reading about this through the work of artist India Flint, spawned by the book I got last year.

I knew very little about this process but wanted to dive straight in and go for it without instruction – isn’t that the fun of experimenting? 
First I collected some windfallen eucalyptus leaves from around the tree at the front of my flat.  It was a pity they were a bit dirtied by the road traffic. 

Still, the tree was true and smelt good. I’m no botanist so I wouldn’t be able to tell you the species of eucalypt.  However from a fantastic book I’ve been reading, I learned that D’harawal people classify their eucalypts according to bark types and their uses.   

So this one I am guessing is a Bourrounj (rough bark).

I got three colours that were determined by their age: newly fallen light green, fading pink, and aged red. 

I didn’t want to buy an extra pot just for dying on the stovetop.  I knew that heat played a part, so I decided to simply steep the leaves and raffia in boiling water like a tea, and let them stew for a few weeks.   I didn't end up using the pink, but separated the red and green to see if they would turn out differently.  It seemed to be working – here are the before and after pics

Here is the subtle colour change in the raffia.  So subtle that there was no visible difference in the red and green leaf dyes.  And pot luck really, I didn’t even know if raffia would take a dye!

It was harder to see by the time I wove it into the basket, but it may be visible if you look closely.

I’m looking forward to using my two little baskets in a multitude of ways, the first being yarn of course. 

Here is the smaller basket with dyed raffia on the two edge rows and the final decorations.  It is holding some blood limes,  a delicious native citrus fruit with a searing tang, packed with vitamins.  

Dabbling in basketry has brought me closer to my environment and it's original, real meaning.  I am very privileged to be able to share the riches of this land that has been raised and cared for by the indigenous people for over 60,000 years.