Coiled Straw Bowl
This large, pretty basketry bowl was made of strips of palm leaves (if they’re from the raphia palm, the strips are called raffia). The palm leaf strips are wound over a central core, which may be bundles of additional strips or other natural materials like hay, rush, pine needles and many others. The fibre that makes up the core of this basket is very hard to determine, since the basket maker wove the palm strips very tightly and expertly around the core, which means you can’t really see what’s underneath. The core is very pliable and we think it’s probably straw. Some of the raffia used was dyed peach and green, so that the six diamond designs could be woven into the center and the triangles around the rim. The technique here is a combination of close coiling–stitches of palm leaves pulled tight so there are no spaces between the coils–and open coiling–with spaces between the coils–around the scalloped rim. The bottom center coils are very narrow and the stitching forms a flower on the back.
Baskets such as this one are often identified as Native American, Mexican, or African, among others. Because of the colors used, the shape of the basket and the construction techniques, we don’t believe this basket fits into any of those categories. It is a beautifully crafted bowl by an experienced basket maker. It’s about 16 inches in diameter and stands 2 1/2 inches high. It’s in wonderful condition–no breaks, no stains and all the stitches are tight and in place. The colors on the front are only lightly faded compared to those on the reverse (photographs #3 and #4). This basket looks spectacular hung on the wall, sitting on a shelf or acting as a centerpiece.