Often crafted by men folk, the basic raw material required for basket weaving is cane and bamboo.
. Tools Used
. Collection and seasoning of raw material
. Splitting the Cane
. Making the base
. Providing the additional base
. Binding the rim
. Attaching the bamboo legs
. The Strap
Despite the complexity of the craft of basket making, the tools used are surprisingly simple. For splitting the cane a knife with a long flat blade called the ‘Dao’ is used. Interestingly for reducing the width of the cane strips into uniform sizes, a metal plate punched with holes is used, as a Die.
As the art of basket making goes back by ages, the horn of the deer is still used by some to separate the strips while the weaving process takes place. Though it is being replaced with a sharp metal rod at present, but yet it remains an indispensable tool. Other common tools are a knife and sharp edgy blades which are used for the process of splitting as well as removing the unwanted fibers form the cane.
Collection and seasoning of raw material
Raw material is available in abundance in the forests at some distance from the village. It takes 3-4 days for the craftsmen to collect the raw material from the dense cover. These trips are generally undertaken during the dry season. The raw material is then kept on racks which are usually found above the fireplace in every household. The smoke from the fireplace then dries the moisture.
Some craftsmen have begun cultivating cane in the adjoining forest areas in order to minimize depletion of the source and have an easy access to it.
Splitting the cane
Cane is split with the Dao. The waxy top layer of the cane is first removed revealing its inner layer which is fibrous and rougher than the outer layer. As the splitting is done vertically, the circumference of the strip is divided neatly into several equal parts. The strip is then thinned down to the required thickness and width. as the cane is then driven into the die to make uniform cane strips.
Making the base
These splits are then woven together to form a square in the centre by regularly interlacing cane strips in a plain weave. After the formation of the square base, the woven pattern is placed on a mould from which the warp strips are then turned up and a continuous weft is woven into them.
Providing the additional warps
The conical basket has a circular mouth which is wider than the square base. Additional warp strips are added ensuring uniform distance between adjacent vertical warps. A continuous weft arising from the base then overlaps the warps securing them.
Binding the rim
The rim of the mouth in a khophi is reinforced by attaching a ring made of cane on the outer circumference. Fine strips of cane are then wound around the ring securing it to the vertical warps. As the rim is secured, the loose ends of the vertical warps are folded inwards binding the rim firmly. The loose ends are then trimmed and the basket is removed from the mould.
Attaching the bamboo legs
At the corners of the square base, vertical bamboo sticks are attached to the sides of the basket. These sticks are then stitched with cane strips reinforcing the basket to form its legs. It is these legs which give the basket its name ‘khophi’ meaning ‘baskets with legs’.
Rings for inserting the strap (kephou) are then woven into the sides of the basket. This strap is made by interlacing strips of cane to form a rectangular patch; the remaining strips from either end of the patch are then entwined to form a flexible and sturdy strap.
In a nutshell
From processing the raw material to splitting, segmenting, weaving, binding and then giving the final touches before the cane strips take the shape of the khophi, almost every step is performed with minute detail.