Basket weavers, the artisan of the month, came to my mind when in need of a particular basket to carry 2 liter size bottles. When I began to fix our abandoned 500 year old house in Tuscany years ago I questioned my neighbor where was the best place to buy baskets. I was surprised when Lina suggested that I go next door to her uncle who makes the baskets. You can order what you want in size, shape, color, strength and he could fulfill your request in a day or two. It was hard to believe but she proved to be right and I became a regular friend and customer of Pietro. I was fascinated with his ability to take my order, then go out of his house and pick some branches from his willow tree or if needing a large basket, some wild branches of cane that grow profusely in our area. After a good soaking they would be ready to use.
When he passed away I asked Santina, his daughter, who would now make the baskets? I was afraid of the answer which I often hear about the artisans of yesterday. “ Nobody does it anymore”. Sure you might find someone in a village that continues this craft but not as seen in the past . Their tools were usually a sturdy garden clipper, a bucket of water and all kinds of pliable materials that were either found in the woods are cut from the fields: plant roots, trunk bark, willow branches, honeysuckle reed, and to me many other unknown products of nature.
Pietro would make house visits to fulfill orders. He was particularly busy during the grape and olive harvest when orders for holding grape and olive baskets were hard to fulfill. I remember in the late 80’s during the grape harvest all our baskets were made of natural products by Pietro. Today they are all colorful plastic containers industrially made to mass product. I feel fortunate to have a number of the beautiful artisan made baskets by Pietro.
These are but a few of the baskets he made for me to meet my needs from a big weeping willow tree in in his yard. The dark color is the natural color and the white comes from young branches he had peeled to their white base. I loved watching him first make the base, creating a framework to meet my request and then filling in the spaces with the chosen material using his creative skills.
Basket weaving may be one of the oldest and widest spread crafts in the world. Its origin is difficult to determine since necessity made one creative with whatever product was available to make whatever was needed. A soft rush may make an angling basket for fishermen in Scotland, in Italy a basket for carrying grapes and in Japan the soft rush could be woven into a tatami, the traditional floor cover .
The craftsmen today may purchase ready to use products such as natural reed, split wood ( flat, round, or even) which after a soak in water would be ready to use. As for the exact shape and style, guess my option is to shop for it or settle for one of the industrial plastic mass produced baskets.