National Basketry Gathering in Tasmania

The National Basketry Gathering that was held in Port Sorrel, Tasmania, was a blast!  Hosted by the basketry guilds from around the state of Tasmania, lots of basketmakers came from Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, a few from other AU states, one from Canada and two from the US. Over 120 all told – a great number for them.

Restrictions are pretty tight for bringing any materials into the state; the locals gathered everything imaginable and had it available for everyone and anyone to use. Huge piles of various leaves (can’t remember all the names of the plants I heard!) gathered at different times of the year, dry and green, all bundled neatly. Big boxes of assorted shells and rocks – all sizes and colors and types – ready to be picked through. Big spools of telephone wire, boxes of buttons, piles of fabric scraps, driftwood, lavender rods, ribbons, fungi, willow, leather scraps, and lots more I can’t remember.  All of it there to be used in whatever manner anyone wanted to use it.

It was like paradise! Many times people just wandered through it all, touching, picking up and looking, eyes shining, smiles all over their faces. Often they would put down what they picked up – it was just the pleasure of holding a lovely piece of something that was important and so satisfying.

The coordinators had scheduled a handful of 2-3 hour classes for each morning – you could sign up or not. More often than not the class went on into the afternoon – people just didn’t stop! The teacher didn’t have to stay (most did, though) and others could come in and try their hand at the project or technique whenever the finished with their first session.

There were also some activities open to everyone whenever they wanted to do them: screen printing the conference logo on whatever you wanted it on (I think I saw a couple of knickers being printed…), some milk painting for texture – pretty interesting process, natural and rust dyeing (we had these great silk goody bags to use!), a large-scale installation out of bamboo and driftwood and funky created butterflies and whatever else found its way there.

Everyone was given a page of good watercolor paper and asked to make it into a page for a memory book of the conference. I turned mine into a a bit of a pop-up page. Others made them woven, some were painted, some had poems, some just had names while others contained whole letters. They wound up binding 3 really gorgeous books with all these pages – so very creative and lovely!

The conference was held at Camp Banksia – a community run camp with cabins (bunk beds) and dining hall and sports auditorium and shower rooms – within a 5 minute walk to the beach.  Three of us shared a 6-bed cabin so we had room to spread our stuff – a good thing! The kitchen folks did a good job of keeping us fed – amazing how appetites seem to grow when you are busy creating (or was it just because we weren’t doing the cooking?!?) Pretty much regular camp food – basic and plenty. And always desserts and fruit and sufficient bottles of wine each evening!

During most evenings there were PowerPoint presentations showing either group or individual work. Mine was welcomed early in the week – I think most folks enjoyed it, mostly because it showed different materials.

Walking the beach with one of my roomies was a lovely morning event – only missed one morning, maybe, although my camera didn’t come along many times. Later in the week we hit it at very low tide – a whole ‘nother world was visible!

Evenings after the presentations, there was usually a crowd that would gather around the cabins or in the dining hall or …. just about anywhere…. with a bottle or two of wine and being shared.  Got to know some great folks while trying hard not to put my foot in my mouth as ‘dumb American’.

One of the coolest things that the conference organizers did was to have a spot where you could bring in clothing items that you didn’t want anymore and anyone else could take what they wanted or needed.  I think this was done to help out those folks who didn’t come prepared for the cooler weather in Tasmania. It also helped me out a lot since I was packing light – I picked up a great big bulking blue jumper (sweater) and a madras plaid long sleeved shirt. They came in handy later in PNG (shirt) and Orange (jumper and shirt) – and then I passed them on to other folks!  Great system!

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