Grasslands: Stories of works in fibre

Delissa Walker

Welcome to the Grasslands where you can explore the amazing works made from the wide variety of plants found across the wider world. These works often keep alive ancient traditions associated with the basic human functions of gathering and carrying food. The amazing skills of the makers reflect a deep knowledge and understanding of the natural world.

Ruth Woods nominates Pussy Willow Sunday (Palm Sunday) as an appropriate day in our calendar for visiting the Grasslands:

In Europe, you will find willow branches one of the most common for weaving – harvesting in the spring and creating beautiful baskets with this flexible fibre. The spring equinox was celebrated by the Pagans in the Eastern European pre-Christian era and a festival was held called Pussy Willow Sunday. Pussy Willow was the first in bud for spring and was said to be a wake-up call to the other flora. It was a sign of fertility and new life. The branches of the Pussy Willow were picked and gently whipped around young girls’ legs as a fertility rite. Also, women who were unable to have children would eat the buds of the Pussy Willow with the hope they would have a child. As Christianity became more popular it became part of Easter celebrations.

Enjoy a wander through our Grasslands…

The Bahari bag: Holding onto the craft wisdom of Itak Sein - Atri Priyamanaya from HANDEP tells how they drew on the unique fibre weaving knowledge of a Dayak elder to revive the beautiful basketry techniques of Central Kalimantan, resulting in a stylish bag.
Touching art - Jane Théau's work reflects the primordial role of tactility in the way we think and feel.
Ruth Woods ✿ Finding Form with Fibre - A book on Australian fibre sculpture combines inspiring artist profiles with a useful reference to materials and techniques.
Artifice as allegory: Sylvia Nakachi investigates evolving Indigeneity in the Torres Strait - Pamela See writes about Torres Strait artist Sylvia Nakachi, whose fibre works recover a pre-contact history.
Suoyi: RuCai Lyu’s rain cape and its ongoing tradition of protection - Shuai Shuo finds one of the few remaining makers of the palm fibre raincoat that has protected Chinese farmers for generations, but has now become a popular good luck charm.
Nikki Main and Sally Blake ✿ Wood wide web - Nikki Main and Sally Blake share their thoughts that have inspired a series of sublime works which delicately bind space.
dhurrung wurruki nyayl ngarrp – kunang - Tammy Gilson reflects on the combined Wadawurrung connection to Country and English sense of industry that has shaped her artistic path and social leadership.
Manzanito ✿ A national hero of rural craft - Our Craft Currencies issue is dedicated to Luis Manzano Cabello, a rural artisan whose magic forms uplifted Chilean craft and inspired pride in vernacular traditions.
Bilums and bilas: From bags to jewels in PNG - Jessica Cassell writes of her time in PNG and the opportunity she saw to add value for local women by evolving the bilum bags into jewellery.
A Tjanpi world: Filled up with stories from the land - Kevin Murray writes about four recent bodies of work that show how Tjanpi Desert Weavers is now taking its epic stories to the wider world.
Nalda Searles ✿ Re-gifted in red - Curator Sandra Murray and writer Andrew Nicholls reflect on recent work in red by the fibre legend, Nalda Searles.
“Things from before”: Baskets in Gorongosa - Frances Potter reflects on the role of craft in Gorongosa, Mozambique, where life is precarious but memories are long.
Sally Blake ✿ Holding hope - Vy Tsan introduces an exhibition by Sally Blake that reflects the cycle of destruction and regeneration in the Canberra landscape.
Pat Dale ✿ Australian Plants & Fibres as Used by First Nations People - Pat Dale's new book reflects on the heritage of fibre knowledge in Australia.
Kuyu Kuyu: A place for weaving stories and cultural resilience - Delissa Walker talks about the land her uncle reclaimed where she brings female relatives together to weave stories.
Tongan designs for a safe pandemic voyage - Angus Gillies writes about traditional Tongan kupesi designs re-interpreted by Sulieti Fieme’a Burrows and Tui Emma Gillies for the COVID era. 
Kanta Kadse ✿ Khajur ki pattiyo - Our May Laurel goes to a broom maker from Madhya Pradesh, whose elegant implements bring beauty to the home.
Ezra Shales: The Shape of Craft - In the seventh Reinventing the Wheel talk, Ezra Shales considers how we should value craft found in everyday work and life.
The Lontar basketry of Palu’e Island (eastern Indonesia) - Stefan and Magnus Danerek visit friends on a tiny volcanic Indonesian island, famous for its unique "crazy weave" baskets.
Following nature’s rhythm: a season on the field as a Linen Steward - A day in the life of Melanie Bomans as a Linen Steward, caring for the plants that will clothe us.
Heron story - Ilka White is inspired to make work in response to the bird on behalf of whom she speaks.
When the lorikeets call - Storied objects by Elisa Jane Carmichael reflect the enduring synchrony of species on her island of Minjerribah.
Pilwas: Knotting Lafkenche narratives in Puerto Saavedra - Magdalena Cattan-Lavin travels south to learn about the Mapuche string bag and how its popularity has been revived.
OVOP Senegal success stories: Jute bag from Espace Beauté Yagora - Joseph Ndione is proud of the craft produced by a Senegal company with the support of the One Village One Product platform.
long water: fibre stories - Freja Carmichael reflects on artists whose work provides a conduit for the spirit of fresh and salt water.
The precious “ta leec” backpack from Co Tu village - We return to Vietnam to learn about a craft classic, the backpack of the Co Tu people known as ta leec which is considered a man's most precious jewellery.
25,000 knots: The hands that make Baba Tree baskets - Awuni Ayine tells us about the fans she makes that were traditionally used for funerals.
Vessels of love: Darug weaving that connects generations, community and country - Jules Christian reflects on how weaving helps her cope with the fear of abandonment that is a legacy of colonisation. 
Ruth Woodbury ✿ A Māori-Salish encounter featuring salmon and cedar cloaks - The Maori weaver and educator Ruth Woodbury took the Toi Sqwigwialtxw residency run by Washington's Salish community. It revealed an extraordinary Moana connection.
Helen Ganalmirriwuy ✿ The magnificent gunga mat - Our November laurel is bestowed on Helen Ganalmirriwuy, who has produced a magnificent mat from gunga (pandanus). She shares the excitement of seeing this work grow over the month of weaving.
Nicole Robins ✿ It’s all in the loop - The Sydney exhibition Totes Serious…who made your bag features unique baskets from Nicole Robins, made from a common indoor plant.
Khushbu Mathur ✿ Sowing seeds of friendship between sister and brother - A new member of the Garland team writes about the seed rakhi, which helps shares the love between brother and sister with mother nature.
Becoming blind to climate change: An age-old Japanese solution - This is a time when we might look to traditional crafts which offered offline means of staying cool, such as the paper fan and these Japanese screens.
Catriona Pollard ✿ A basketmaker’s holiday - Australian fibre artists draw from the world at hand. Catriona Pollard's story shows how this adds a particular sense of place and time to the work.
Rainbow Serpent art from Pormpuraaw - Artists from Pormpuraaw share stories of the Rainbow Serpent that inspire their art.
Elisa-Jane Carmichael ✿ Weaving with ancestors - Sally Butler writes about Quandamooka artist Elisa-Jane Carmichael, who interprets her fibre tradition in stunning new forms
Circling Back ✿ New work by Harriet Goodall - Harriet Gooddall's new work is woven from rural detritus, gathered from land in mourning for its decay. 
Yirran Miigaydhu Aboriginal Women Weavers - The Yirran Miigaydhu weavers exhibition at Cement Fondu profiles the influence of Thawaral artist Phyllis Stewart.
Manami Aoki ✿ Kushi-ireru-ki (hair of wood) - Our laurel for March 2019 goes to emerging Tokyo jeweller Manami Aoki for her work "Hair of wood".
Reflection pods: Yolŋu weavers create a thinking space in Sydney CBD - Lucy Simpson designed a series of spaces for the offices of Westpac in Sydney CBD, which were woven by Yolŋu women from Elcho Island and Milingimbi.
Crafting a community – A year of time, 2017-2018 - Bridget Kennedy outlines the exchange model that underpinned the Year of Time project that explored alternative values for making.
Baskets for lemurs ✿ An epic challenge - Our second article by Wendy Golden describes an epic fibre construction for the new lemur enclosure at Melbourne Zoo. The needs of these primates from Madagascar are met by one of the largest basket projects in Australia. 
Baskets for spider monkeys ✿ Wendy Golden - Wendy Golden describes the commission to make feeding baskets for spider monkeys at the Melbourne Zoo, inspired by the teardrop nests of Oropendola birds.
ヨークに渡った新潟のわらアート:日本に学ぶ干し草彫刻 - わらアート作家、守屋陽氏から私のもとに1通のメールには、日本で初めて出版されるというわらアートの本の英名が書かれていた。そのタイトルは「わらで地域を再生する」。その出版物やプロジェクトに似つかわしくないタイトルに私の口から笑みがこぼれた。わらアートは西オーストラリア州に何をもたらすのだろうか。そして、それは日本の地方で起きていることと、何か関係があるのだろうか。
Art for whales ✿ A driftwood tribute from Golden Bay - Nicola Basham describes a community project to make sculptures out of driftwood to help in efforts to save beached whales.
Women’s Wealth Project: Biruko and Tuhu hoods - Sana Balai and Ruth McDougall write about the precious fibre objects, biruku and tuhu hoods, that arose from a series of workshops in Bougainville and Solomon Islands.
Shibari on the Strathbogie Ranges: The art of Japanese rock knotting - Anne Newton recounts how the Japanese technique of knotting rocks helped her express her appreciation of the Victorian highlands.
Wara art from Niigata to York: Japan-inspired hay sculptures 🇯🇵 - Jenny Garroun and Ilsa Bennion tells the story of a West Australian wheatbelt town that was revitalised through the Japanese craft of making rice stalk sculptures
Shimenawa: Hidden meanings behind the twisted ropes at Izumo Taisha - Sayumi Yokouchi writes about the huge twisted rope that adorns Japanese shrines and honours the kami spirits within.
Anxi: A city of rattan and iron - During a visit to the southern Chinese city of Anxi, I learnt that China was much more than the world's factory. Behind the scenes is a rich culture of folk craft and ritual. It seems that China is saving the best for last. 
Anne Jillett ✿ “Sitting on a milk crate each week…” - To celebrate the beautiful and thoughtful works that are made across the Indo-Pacific, we're introducing an "object of the month". The first of these laurels goes to Anne Jillett for her Salt Pot. Anne lives in Babinda, Queensland. You can see more of her work at Ellis Road Fibre Arts
4,000-year-old string discovered in Egypt - At Garland, we love stories of string. This rich article from a publication about coastal cultures includes the story of how perfectly preserved papyrus rope was discovered in a man-made cave in the ancient Egyptian harbour of Saww. String-lovers will enjoy this.
Wickery and place - Ray Norman reveals the hidden world of wickery and its role in our musing places
Wicker Wonderlust, a gallery experiment - Karina Clarke describes an experiment in asking a community to fill an empty space with baskets they've acquired.
Where the weaver left off - Gwen Egg discovers an ingenious fibre "needle and thread" used in traditional Tasmanian Aboriginal basket weaving
Building a better dome - Greg Lehman discovers tunapri knowledge involved in the construction of the palawa Tasmanian Aboriginal shelter
Fibre to metal: Mudlark Jilinbirri Metals from Carnarvon - Jilinbirri is the Yamatji word for an Australian bird, also known as the mudlark in Western Australia. It is the title of an exhibition by Yamatji fibre artists whose work was transformed into bronze.
From the Top End down: An Adrienne Kneebone story - Kevin Murray talks with Adrienne Kneebone, one of a generation of fibre artists who emerged from the Northern Territory scene in the 2000s.
“Who’s Nalda?” The influence of Eileen Keys and Pantjiti Mary McLean 🎧 - Kevin Murray talks with Nalda Searles about the major influences in her artistic development.
Her Journey and our empty cups: Fiona Gavino in Escolta - Dayang Yraola traces Fiona Gavino's post-colonial journeys through Manila.