For thousands of years, many societies and indigenous tribes have used baskets for everything from food gathering to meal preparation and cooking to storing of possessions. Specially adorned baskets have been given as gifts, and some are considered to be works of art. For some people, weaving is a form of artful self-expression, while others have turned their talents into full-time jobs. If you choose basket weaving as a career, there a several different paths.
Basket Weaving 101
If you're just starting out as a basket weaver, you'll probably be surprised by the variety of materials and methods used. Baskets can be woven, braided, coiled or lashed and made from grasses, evergreen needles, willow branches, wire, wood or even horse hair. While the specific technique may vary depending on the method and type of basket, gathering and preparing the material is always the first step. The base of the basket is created first, then the sides and finally the handle, if there is one.
Education and Experience
For beginners, it's helpful to take basket-weaving classes. These are often available through community colleges or other organizations that offer adult education courses. You can also teach yourself basic weaving techniques by following the instructions included in commercially sold basket-weaving kits. The level of education you'll need to turn a basket-weaving pastime into a full-time job depends on which career path you choose. If you decide to sell your own creations, you may only need to be self-taught and have a talent for weaving. If you decide to teach at the college level, you'll typically need at least a four-year degree in art or basket weaving.
The Basket Weaver Entrepeneur
You may choose to try to sell your baskets yourself. Selling online is one alternative. If you choose this route, you'll need to have plenty of baskets to sell, along with high quality photographs of your work. You'll have to do your homework to determine what kind of permissions or licenses your state or local government will require, such as a business license or sales tax permit, and you'll have to establish an online payment system for your customers, such as PayPal and/or credit cards. Another alternative is to sell your wares at craft fairs or local gift shops. Selling your baskets in person or online won't require any education or formal training -- simply a talent for creating beautiful baskets that people want to buy.
The Factory Worker
Although working in a factory won't allow you to express your creative side, it will afford you the opportunity to participate in basket weaving every day and earn a regular paycheck at the same time. Typically, basket weavers in factories work on assembly lines. They are responsible for setting up, operating and monitoring machinery on which baskets are woven. Although you may not need much experience in basket weaving for this type of job, you will most likely need a background in operating machinery within a factory setting.
The Basket-Weaving Teacher
One way to share your weaving knowledge and earn a paycheck at the same time is through teaching. The background and experience you'll need to teach basket weaving will depend on where you intend to teach. If you choose to teach at a local arts and crafts studio, you may need no formal basket-weaving education at all. A community college may require that you have a four-year college degree and some level of formal training as a weaver. However, if you intend to teach college courses at an accredited university, you will probably need at least a four-year degree in basket weaving or a degree in art or art history with coursework in basket making.
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- California Department of Parks and Recreation: California Indian Baskets
- USF College of Arts and Sciences: Department of Basket Weaving, University of San Francisco
- Billy Ray Sims: Basketmaker
- Jon's Bushcraft: How to Weave a Wicker Basket
- Factory Tours USA: The Longaberger Company
- Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images