Basketry is one of the oldest and most ubiquitous of human technologies and one of the primary processes through which nature and culture can be envisaged as inextricably interwoven. The singular act of making a basketry artefact draws on and informs skill-sets and ways of knowing that are transferable, elucidating aspects of culture and technology in the light of their interface with the natural world. As a manual process and tacit knowledge system basketry exemplifies aspects of the evolution of mind-body inter-dependence and contributes to material realizations of order, aesthetics and understanding, offering particular insight into the development of pattern and structure and to the disciplines of mathematics, engineering and architecture. Through the diversity of its functional and symbolic applications basketry has contributed to the organization of agricultural, social, economic and political life. In these respects basketry may be envisaged as formative, rather than indicative, of the so-called intelligence that distinguishes humans from other animal species.
It is a premise of this research programme that it is timely for basketry to be redefined, as a hub within a rhizomatic web of exchange. Rather than being a modest and declining craft of finite duration the programme considers basketry as inherently interdisciplinary, weaving and cross-referring between biology, nest building, architecture, fine art, design, biomimetics, bio-engineering, economics and computation , in addition to the ethnographic and craft-based contexts in which it is already a familiar presence. Across this range, natural morphology is seen as a significant source of inspiration, frequently pitted against a perceived tide of consumerism and reflecting an impulse for increased ecological sensitivity. The contemporary enthusiasm for adding the prefix ‘bio’ to terms for systems and processes that look towards ‘nature’ for explanation or new knowledge, as in biomimetics, bio-culture, bio-engineering, bio-technology and bio-ethics, parallels the needs of a contemporary cultural outlook that finds itself threatened by its own success to attend to the sometimes invisible mechanisms through which morphology, making and meaning coincide. Basketry, as prototype, offers an enduring and successful example of ‘slow’ design.