Highland Hairmoss Basket

Photos by Jonathan Booth, @hubphotographer

I am, to misquote Madonna, “a materials girl”: I develop obsessions with particular basketry materials, anything from corsetry boning to black willow to elastic. For this piece, I used a plant that grows abundantly here on the west coast of Scotland: hairmoss (Polytrichum commune).

I was intrigued by a “Basket from Hair Moss (England)” in the  Kew Gardens Economic Botany Collection collection, a bowl-like basket of plaited hairmoss, with visible stitching. It was simple and robust. I also discovered that the archaeological record includes a hairmoss plait discovered in Ayrshire that dates from 585–630 AD.

At home in Applecross, I pulled up a few handfuls of hairmoss from alongside a nearby burn and tried plaiting it. I found that making a simple 3-element plait, constantly adding new strands of hairmoss, you could keep the green on one side (looking a little like Astro Turf!), while the other side of the plait resembled  tweed. 

It takes many hours of plaiting to create enough to make even a fairly small basket, and stitching the plaits together is another time-consuming business. I made a mould to work on, and created a small biodegradable handbag of hairmoss and linen.

“Highland Hairmoss Basket”, won third prize in the Basketmakers’ Best Basketry 2017 competition. 

Where can I see "Highland Hairmoss Basket"?

- "Bags, Bottles & Baskets", solo show, Inverness Museum & Gallery, 15 June to 3 August 2019, Foyer Gallery

Using Format