Seaweed Weaving ~ Bull Kelp Basketry

When I was twenty, I spent a year in art school and then decided art was something that I would do later. Later arrived in my fifties. I like using my hands and I especially enjoy working with natural materials. Recently, I have been weaving with the long-stemmed bull kelp Nereocystis, or mermaid's bladder.

Bull kelp has a long stem, or stipe, that extends 30 or more metres from a holdfast on the sea floor up to a surface float and cluster of narrow blades. An annual plant, to reach such stature in a single season means bull kelp grows rapidly between spring and fall.

Through the year I collect gold-hued sundried seaweed, partially decomposed black seaweed, and fresh green and brown seaweed that I dry by coiling the long stipes around the lifeline’s of my sailboat.

Smile..this summer I learned a thing or two about drying seaweed, collected a lot of bull kelp, and look forward to a winter of weaving kelp.

A highlight of fall 2010 was showing some of my first seaweed baskets in the '100 Mile Basket Show' as part of an ArtCraft exhibit in Mahon Hall on Salt Spring Island. I even sold several pieces.

To my surprise, Salt Spring Island is home to a number very good fibre artists who have founded the Salt Spring Island Basketry Guild. This fall, I joined the guild hoping to get to know, learn from, and be inspired by other basket-makers.

Last December, I put a few small first year and several larger second year kelp baskets in the Salt Spring Island Arts Council Christmas Sale, along with some wool bags and pouches created from recycled sweaters, and beads and bones.

A few small baskets and several pouches sold, which is pretty cool. Lately (Jan.-Feb. 2011), I've been focused on building bigger baskets and developing techniques that give me greater control of shape and form. 2012 baskets can be found in EcoGallery (Sidney, BC) and in the Salt Spring Arts Council ArtCraft show in Mahon Hall.

Below, click on thumbnails for upclose views of first and second year baskets.