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Delia Fian

About

Basket weaver and teacher.

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Life

I am a basket weaver and teacher, making my way towards a handmade life in the Unicoi mountains of Southern Appalachia. I direct School of the Greenwood, a nonprofit working to restore connection to the land through creative empowerment. At Greenwood, I teach basketry to children and adults, utilizing invasive and abundant wild materials. When not teaching, I am passionately exploring the fibers of place - hunting the limits of all that is possible in weaving material culture for a rooted and regenerative future. 

Work

In my work, I weave the fibers of place and creative possibility. Gathering material from waste spaces at the edge of the human world - roadside thickets, power line cuts, and abandoned lots, I harvest plants considered invasive and a nuisance, to transform them into beautiful and useful works of art. My baskets are for everyday life - for holding, for carrying, for weaving relationship and wonder into the seemingly mundane. My baskets combine traditional as well as explorative techniques to weave forms that are useful and appropriate for our world today, while whispering of a future where baskets again take a central role in daily life. My baskets carry hope for the future in a changing world and the gifts that lay hidden in forgotten spaces.

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how it began

My first introduction to basketry was in a class with Nancy Basket, who taught me to free-form weave with split kudzu vines. Years later, I realized that I needed a pack basket to help me carry things up and down the mountain where I was living off-grid in a canvas tent. Since the technique and material Nancy had taught me were so accessible, and her style of teaching so open and encouraging, I got a wild hair and thought I could try weaving a giant version of the basket she'd taught me and just attach some straps! As it turned out, I could! The basket looked like a large weaver bird nest. It was so beautiful, strong, and fun to weave! I went on to create more, and soon had folks at my school asking me to teach them. 

A year or so later, I took a reed basket class at John C. Campbell Folk School with Pattie Bagley. As she walked me through the splintwork patterns, my hands started to come alive in a way I had never experienced before. It felt as though an ancient basket weaver had been lying in wait inside of me all my life, and was finally given what it needed to step forward. Every night after class the patterns and rhythms melted into my dreams. During that class, I realized that I was a basket weaver, and that a long and wonderful journey had just begun. 

The following year I was invited to participate in the Traditional Craft Mentorship program at the Folk School, studying traditional white oak basketry for a month with several incredible teachers: Mary Ann and Bill Smith, Sue Williams, and Betty Maney. The rigor of the program and impeccable instruction I received gave me an incredible foundation for my basketry career. 

Following the mentorship program, Pattie Bagley approached me and asked me to combine the skills I learned in weaving white oak with my experience weaving kudzu. She handed me a ribbed basket pattern to experiment with, a huge stack of books, and a challenge. She asked if I would spend the next year and a half practicing, then come back and teach a kudzu ribbed basket class at the one and only John C. Campbell Folk School. I was floored by her invitation, and against my better judgement, said yes. That invitation lit a fire under me like nothing else could. As I began applying the traditional Appalachian ribwork techniques to weaving kudzu, I was amazed by how beautifully this nuisance vine could be transformed. I then branched out to learn other traditional techniques - studying willow work in Ireland, and even applying ancient textile patterns to weave twill baskets. I began incorporating other invasive plants into my work - wisteria, Mimosa bark, Chinese privet bark, etc. I then enrolled in Matt Tommey's online course, to continue solidifying my techniques.  

The more I learned, the more I realized it was possible to learn. To be honest, most days I feel like a kid in a candy shop, wanting to sample every possible material and technique, and wondering if I'll even scratch the surface in this lifetime. I owe so much to my teachers, and hope that I honor their legacy in all that I go on to create and share. 

What I Love About Basketry

I absolutely love the accessibility of this craft. Baskets can be made without purchasing any tools - just using things found around your home, and baskets can be made without purchasing any materials - just weaving plants found around the yard and roadside. I also love how this craft goes beyond just one particular use. Baskets are vessels for so many things - a hat is a basket for your head, a wicker chair is a basket for your rear end, a wattle house is a basket for your family, an Irish coracle is a basket for going fishing, not to mention fences, shoes, and the list goes on and on. Our ancestor's world was woven, and I hope ours will be one day again too. 

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