Great news! In late February, the Woven Communities team – Liz, Julie Dawn and Steph – learned that we had been funded by the AHRC to do phase 2 of the Woven Communities project. This means that we can take the project into a whole new area, working with 5 Scottish museums and galleries.
We’ll be building on the experience we gained from the first part of the project, which showed us that whenever we made baskets in public, people were quick to come and speak to us and tell us both whether we were doing it right or wrong, and also their family memories and connections with Scottish baskets. So we are interested to learn about the past from people who see us making, and we’ll be working with museum collections to see what stories people can tell us linked to the baskets in their collections. These museums include the Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride (part of the National Museum of Scotland – it holds the definitive Rintoul-Baxter Collection of Scottish baskets). We are also working at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther (baskets linked to the Fishing industry of the past 150 years), the Highland Folk Museum (the Isobel Grant Collection, which holds many fine example of Traveller and other Highland baskets), An Lanntair and Stornoway Museum on Lewis, and Shetland Museum (where materials are limited and new ecologies of basketry have developed).
And, we are also keen to explore and understand just how much knowledge and skill there is in the act of making baskets by hand. Every moment a basket-maker decides which stake or strand to use, and how much tension to put in, is a moment of creative decision-making and problem-solving. We know that basketry has had important therapeutic uses in the past, in rehabilitating traumatised and wounded soldiers. The example of Scotland’s own Angus MacPhee, the shell-shocked man from South Uist who spent years weaving from grass, shows how important hand-work is in personal recovery. We are also working with An Lanntair on their Life Changes Trust project, working with people living with dementia to explore how hand memories can provoke and inspire people to talk about the past. So we are very keen to learn more about the relationship between hand-work, learning, imagination and cognition, all of which are so important at a time when virtual work often holds greater value over handwork.
We started the project in late March and have so far been to visit 4 museums and have set up our summer plan fully in place. Watch this space for more information….