Proper Care and Display of your Basket
by April Niino, Penny Nii Quilt Art
There are two important aspects to preserving a handwoven basket in your home. First, to provide a safe place for the basket to "live"; and second, to prevent deterioration in the piece beyond that which might already exist.
Display of Your Handwoven Basket
Consider how the handwoven basket was meant to be used or displayed. A basket that is consistently hung, mounted, or rested on a part never intended for that purpose, will incur damage. Alternate your display, changing the baskets that are out, with others that have been safely stored away for a period of time. Rotation will limit their exposure to deteriorating factors.
Protection of Your Handwoven Basket
A perfect environment for handwoven baskets rarely exists. Fading and bleaching are common problems, in addition to the basket materials becoming brittle. This can be avoided by keeping baskets away from direct sunlight and high intensity artificial lighting. Dirt, dust, grime, and insects are also a problem when basketry is place near open windows, exterior doors, houseplants, and pets. Keep your baskets out of the kitchen or away from fireplaces and gas or oil furnace registers to eliminate the possibility of grease and soot deposits. Basketry materials can also stain and absorb odors from foods, perfumes, and cigarettes.
Changes in temperature and humidity will cause your handwoven basket to expand and contract. This will cause the basketry materials to distort and become brittle. Avoid placing baskets in bathrooms and near exterior walls which have frequent and more severe fluctuations in temperature and humidity.
The value of any basket lies in the preservation of the use which the artist intended. Evidence of wear on basketry materials, such as loss of fiber, patinas, and some breaks, can result from the intended use of the basket. Such "damage" reflects the natural use and may actually enhance the worth of the handwoven basket. Adding, "improving," altering, or reworking the piece in any way reduces the value and should be avoided.
Repair of Your Handwoven Basket
If damage to your handwoven basket has occurred, this damage can never be entirely undone. You can only slow down the aging process by taking precautions and preserving what remains.
Repairing a handwoven basket presents a difficult problem, since repairs may or may not be compatible with the original structure. It is very possible that repairs will only draw attention to the inherent weaknesses in the piece. Coatings and oils do nothing to further the life of a basket but can be responsible for damages that worsen with age. Glues, tapes, and adhesives used for repairs often stain the materials. Wires, staples, and threads that are used to mount or repair a basket will damage the fibers.
What can you do if your handwoven basket needs attention? The first step is to consult a trained basket conservator. Find out what your options are. Prepare to ask the conservator how the damage relates to the materials, structure and use of the basket. Ask for alternative methods and how such methods will affect the future life of your basket. Seek more than one opinion. If you are dissatisfied with one conservator's knowledge and experience with basketry, look for another.
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