Basket Making in Brazil

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

Ellen enrolled in our Baskets from the Garden online workshop last month. She asked me about plants she could use, and I was curious to find out what she could find. Ellen worked her way through the workshop, and in doing so made some lovely pieces by replacing plants I'd spoken about with local species. By nature, she is an amazingly creative person. Outside of basketry, she also produces beautiful eco-printed fabrics. Here's her story.

My name is Ellen , I am from the Netherlands and I live in Brazil for 3.5 years now.

I have lived in different countries for the past 35 years. Getting to known simple rice farmers in the Dominican Republic to coffee farmers in Indonesia. Experiencing untouched tropical forests from Colombia to Nicaragua. Wildlife on the savanna’s of Kenya to the incredible biodiversity of the Brazilian Cerrado; nature has always inspired me to create.

I’m always fascinated and inspired by the people and culture of the countries I live in. I've always been a maker.

Living in the different countries under simple circumstances has perhaps also inspired me. In the Dominican Republic where our adventure started in 1983 in a very small village, among rice farmers, I started drawing with the whole village on the muddy floor, with a box of coloured pencils and paper.

From 4-year-old children to 80-year-old grandpa`s...people who never held a coloured pencil made great drawings! It made them happy and proud, it made them dance, and forget their difficulties for a moment. While at first they said, 'I can't' I think there is a lot of creativity in every person. Some people may take a little longer to discover it. If you have less, you automatically get more creative, I'm sure.

I started to experiment in Kenya with Eco printing, basic steps. And now I actually work and experiment on a daily basis here in Brazil. I love the process of designing and printing, and being in nature to collect and 'discover' new leaves. And make them in one of a kind textiles.

I also draw and work with watercolor. I colour (paint) wooden objects and old chairs in bright happy colours with 'fantasy figures' from nature, and I design and make cuddly toys for children from old clothes. Especially the time in Kenya where I designed and made an elephant for many children.

I've always been interested in baskets, and I've been collecting second-hand baskets since I was 14. I try to incorporate things that come from my garden into baskets and wreaths.

But I had never done a workshop before. When I saw the online workshop of craft school oz with Ruth Woods, Baskets from the Garden'. I thought, now is the moment.

The course worked perfectly for me, and I started looking even more closely for fibers to use. Not always easy, but I find that a challenge.

Baskets are made all over the world, so I think there is always something you can find in your surroundings, that you can use to work with.

I used lemongrass and Thunbergia and Dracaena fragrans, banana fiber, and flowers of a palm tree. And different grasses I found in the Cerrado. And I tried to make rope from the inside of the Agave, and it worked. I made three wonderful baskets in this workshop with Ruth, and I am working on other baskets now!

I think being creative is always good for you, but now in isolation perhaps even more important. It makes you think about other things for a moment. Being creative is good for the mind, and makes you happy.

Here are some of Ellen's beautiful eco-printed fabrics. You can see more of her work on her Instagram page. @ellenrikken

Do you have some work to share with us or even a story? Please email us - we'd love to hear it.

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