Why telephone wire?

Weaving with telephone-wire is a traditional South African craft of the Zulu people that, with the advent of telecommunications and plastic-coated wire, has developed into an internationally recognised art form. It is a craft steeped in history, as conveyed by the following quote from one of the very few books documenting the significance of wire art in South African culture.

…the true ancestor of wire weaving as an art is the imbenge, the beer pot lid. Traditionally this lid, woven of grass and palm leaf, is one of the most important household objects in the Zulu homestead because it covers the ukhamba (clay beer pot) … Among the Nguni people the drinking of beer is a quasi-sacred event because it is done to honour the amadlozi (ancestral spirits). Very strict rules and etiquette are followed in the brewing, drinking and presentation of the beer. It deserves only the most beautiful containers and lids.

Arment, D and Fick-Jordaan, M. (2005) Wired: Contemporary Zulu Telephone Wire Baskets. S/C Editions, Santa Fe.

After my last trip to South Africa in 2004, I set about teaching myself the soft-wire weaving technique used in the baskets I had brought back with me to Australia. I’ve since woven quite a few baskets but have really only scratched the surface of wire weaving. One of my most ardent ambitions is to spend some time with wire-weaving masters in South Africa, learning more about the traditions and techniques of this intriguing craft.

I source my wire from rubbish skips and bins where it has been discarded after rewiring jobs. The cables are painstakingly stripped of their rubber casing and unravelled, and the individual wires coiled and sorted into colours. The selection of colours is based on matching the basket to a particular décor, to the intended recipient, or just the mood of the moment. However, the palette is restricted by the limited range of colours the wires come in. The baskets are woven in my spare time, usually during mountain-top rests on bushwalks in the Tasmanian wilderness or relaxed moments on holiday, hence the monikers Extreme Weaving and Well-Travelled Baskets.

Weaving for Wildlife

From time to time I donate a basket to a fundraising appeal for wildlife conservation. I call these donated baskets the “Weaving for Wildlife” series, with the aim of weaving a community to help wildlife in peril around the world. My dream is that my baskets become collectors’ items, thereby boosting the fundraising potential of future “Weaving for Wildlife” baskets and make a real difference to wildlife charities close to my heart.

Bushwalking in Tasmania

I hope that the on-location photos that I share, amateurish as they are, will provide an enticing window into the Tasmanian wilderness and the great variety of walks we have available to us. However, I should make a brief disclaimer that this site is not a walking guide! If that’s more what you’re after, I can recommend rockmonkeyadventures.

A Plug for Kangaroo Island

My Beloved and I have formed a love affair with Kangaroo Island, off South Australia. We were lucky enough to find a truly special cottage on the Dudley Peninsula, namely The Kona at Antechamber Bay Retreats that has become a true home-away-from-home. We’ve stayed there at least eight times, and in the course of our visits have formed a close friendship with the owners, Kate and Andy Gilfillan. In fact, Andy has been a recipient of one of the baskets soon to be listed on this site.

The Kona is a secluded, renovated cottage, set amongst the sheep pastures of a working farm and overlooking Antechamber Bay and Backstairs Passage. The magnificent views of the sea are framed by Cape St Albans and Cape Couts. On our first visit, we arrived at night, in a light drizzle. The next morning, we opened the curtains in the main bedroom to discover that we had awoken in paradise! A lot of weaving has taken place on the secluded deck of The Kona whilst contemplating the fabulous view.