Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tubecoiled Screwpine Video Demo

Our Artist and Demonstrator
Daphne Stephens of Choiseul, St. Lucia is a traditional crafter who makes tubecoiled “Screwpine” basketry. This is one of the traditional forms of basketry found in St. Lucia and Daphne is considered to be the island’s most accomplished practitioner of this craft – her baskets are tightly woven with fine detailing and last decades in full use without showing much wear and tear at all. In fact, Daphne is the only basket-maker on the island who does this technique to such a level of tightness, detail and quality. She has always expressed a keen interest in teaching but the youth unfortunately don’t see being a basket-maker as a future for them.

A Wish
Nonetheless, one of the things I would like to achieve someday, is to find a small group of interested persons – youth and others - and have Daphne be part of series of training workshops where she would teach and pass on her skills and participate also in learning ways to introduce contemporary designs, decorative techniques and adaptations to other décor and fashion uses to broaden the customer base. I’m hoping I’ll find an interested funding agency and we’ll manage to turn what may soon otherwise only be an historical tradition, into a new vibrant living tradition.

About the Craft
The screwpine, pandanus tectoris, locally known as “palama” is often grown as a wind-shield as its dense growth defies even hurricane force winds. The name screwpine comes from the way the central stem grows in a spiral or screw. The leaves naturally dry on the plant and turn a lovely soft brown but most weavers also pick green leaves, boil and bake them to achieve a cream colour as well. Other preparation includes removal of the central rib and the outer edges of the leaves which are lined with prickles: This is done with a needle or similar object, run along the leaf, which separates easily along its grain. Pricked fingers are not uncommon! Leaves are then split again into appropriate sizes for the weaving and theAlthough St. Lucian traditional crafters don’t dye these fibres, you can dye them with RIT dyes, which are strong enough to get past the waxy surface of the leaves. You can also apply acrylic paints or wood stains on a completed piece to achieve a variety of decorative effects.

The Video Clips

These clips show a few of the techniques she kindly demonstrated to my Art students during a tour we made around just some of St. Lucia’s arts and crafts interests. The clips don’t show a whole basket being made but we have a beginning clip, adding in new weaving strands and finishing off. Perhaps I will be able to film her making a small items from start to finish or at least showing a few more techniques to share here, but for now, I hope you enjoy these.

Starting Off

Adding in a New Strand

Finishing Off

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