Thursday, October 8, 2015

What is So Unusual About Zulu Wire Baskets?

For many years now Baskets of Africa has had the pleasure of working with a group of weavers in Zululand who create colorful baskets woven from a rather unusual material: plastic-coated wire.

Originally created from telephone wire, these baskets are also unusual because of the process in which they are woven.

Traditionally, baskets are created by starting at the bottom and weaving up and out. Zulu wire baskets, however, are created by wrapping the wire around the rim first, then working down and into the center, tightly weaving over a form.

 Woven wire bowl

The bowl pictured above was made by wrangling at least 34 strands of wire into a beautiful swirling rainbow of color — no easy feat. And the platter pictured below was started with 135 pieces of wire.

 Zulu woven wire platter

As the artist worked toward the center, the design got smaller and smaller and pieces of wire are carefully trimmed. When the weaver completed the platter, the few remaining pieces of wire were trimmed and smoothed. The result is a smooth surface and a vibrant design.

Perhaps the most challenging shape to create is the lidded pot.

 Colorful woven wire lidded pot

These are also woven from top to bottom, but they are woven over a form that has to be broken when the weaving is done.

Zulu wire baskets represent some of the most modern and vibrant weaving available today. Explore the variety of colors and shapes this weaving group creates in our Zulu Wire collection: