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Indian Basketry: A Story of Craftsmanship and Relationship with Nature

We have a joke around my house, whenever we have stuff lying around, without any assigned spot, we will say, “just basket it”. Baskets are the basic unit of organization for our magazines, and mails, at our dressing table or bedhead, in the kitchen, study room, for laundry and wardrobes, as handbags, clutch bags, and even in our car. They are beautiful, elegant, and easy to store any and everything.

The weaving of baskets is as old as the history of mankind. With its traces found even in the ancient pyramids, basketry is an ancient craft famous from 8,000-6,000 BCE – pre-dating pottery or stone carving. Though the number of actual examples that still exist is very few because these baskets are made of biodegradable materials and leave zero waste behind.

The craft of basket making is commonly known as ‘Tokri Bunna’ in India. Evolved to make containers for nomads to carry food and collectibles, the craft of making baskets is ancient and functional. These baskets are made of grass, reeds, leaves, etc., and take new shapes every mile.


A) Material Used

To weave a basket there are many types of resources and materials that are commonly used, like various kinds of tree bark, grasses, reeds, fibers, leaves, bamboo, vines, oak, honeysuckle, and willow, etc. From ancient times, the local availability of the material, flexibility, and strength of the fibers has been the most important aspect to choose the most appropriate material to use.

B) Basic Process

The basic process of basket making involves carefully weaving strands of fiber over and under each other to create a defined shape. A simple coil basket starts out as a thick piece of fiber that is shaped into a basic coil while a thinner, flexible fiber is woven around it. Wicker baskets are more difficult to master. They start out as a series of stakes, also known as spokes, which radiate from the bottom of the basket – these are used as the supporting frame. Then, a series of strands are woven over and under the spokes to create the sides of the basket. It all depends on the region, the locally available materials, and the way it has always been done. Basketry is a skill that is passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter.

C) Techniques

There are four basic weaving techniques are used to make baskets: wicker, plaiting, twining, and coiling. Wicker, plaiting, and twining all interlace wefts (horizontal elements) and warps (vertical elements), but each technique brings to basketry subtleties of design, color, and form. Coiling is more like sewing. Each of the basic weaves has numerous variations, and weavers sometimes use several variations on a technique in a single basket or combine two or more techniques. Ultimately, the beauty of a basket’s weave reveals the weaver’s creative vision and technical adeptness at both preparing her materials and manipulating them into a basket form.

All around the world basket weaving is different according to their culture and geographical position. They add their own local culture, experience, and skills for making a unique product. The tools and technologies attached to weaving techniques reflect the geographical location of the many and varied culturally different groups.

Contemporizing a craft like basketry is tricky because, unlike other Indian crafts, it is inherently minimal, simple, and bears an innate elegance. Mianzi has introduced technology in basket weaving. This helps the ancestral craftswomen of rural India weave bamboo baskets with precision and ease.


  1. Basketry – Ancient and Modern by Jill Mickel

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