Monday, July 13, 2015

Life Long Learning: Basket Making

While I was on vacation with Family Nature Summits in North Carolina I took a class with Al Lookofsky where I learned how to make a basket out of bark using primitive tools as Native Americans would have done a long time ago!  So, I thought I'd share with you what I learned:

First, Al explained that he'd cut down a poplar tree and took the bark off of it in large chunks.  He then soaks the bark in water to make it more pliable. We each got a section approximately 18 inches tall that was the diameter of the tree.

He then gave us a bi-sided tool made of chert which is a rock like flint that had been shaped into a sharp edged cutting tool.  It looked somewhat like an arrow head but had a less defined shape.  He also gave us a piece of construction paper in the shape of a football.  We measured half way down our bark and centered the football.  We had to use our tool to etch a groove deep into the bar all the way around the shape.  

I thought it would be easy.  It wasn't.  1.5 hrs later after a lot of this:

I ended up with:
Now, wood is not a perfect medium so there were places that the bark was splitting from itself.  To fix this we had to drill holes on either side of the split and use thin strips of bark to lace it together.  I was really annoyed that my bark wasn't perfect.  (Anyone else have those students who freak out if their project isn't EXACTLY RIGHT?  I was being that student so I told myself to stop it.)

We could have chosen to use a stone drill which is a stick with a pointy piece of stone at the end that you rub between your hands to make it spin but I was getting tired so I used a power tool.  Shhhh. To clear the drill holes of debris though I used an awl made of bone!

Here is what the repairs looked like from the front and the back.  Does it look like a basket yet?

Now was the scary part.  It was time to fold the sides up to make the basket shape.  I held my breath and with Al's help folded up my basket.  But the work wasn't done yet....

We used clearly ancient clamps to put a band of bark around the entire basket to help hold it together.  Then we drilled holes all the way around the basket just under the band.  I chose a dark bark to bind it all together.  
Disregard my bandaid finger.  I love the contrast I was able to get.  But wait, there's more, I'm not quite done yet!  I saw other people adding a handle made of braided bark so I went and did that too. And Voila!  I have a bark basket!
And remember all that complaining I was doing about having to fix the imperfections?  Well I like how that "X" looks on my basket- it's like a decoration.  

Learning to do something completely new is something all teachers should continue to do.  It helps us learn about ourselves as students and helps us remember what its like to not know something.  It reminds us of the frustrations students can face.  And, it exercises our mind and in this case, my fingers.

If you'd like to participate in a week long adventure with fun people interested in learning about our natural world by taking classes, going on hikes, and sharing with each other visit the Family Nature Summits website.  I've been attending for over two decades now.  It's an amazing opportunity for the whole family! 

 Thanks for reading! 

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