About two years ago, Brooklyn artist Doug Johnston got an itch to learn traditional basket-weaving techniques, so he did what any reasonable man hunting for tips on ancient crafts might do: He scoured YouTube. There, he found instructions for coiling rope into patterned sacks--a method that dates to the ceramics and basketry of early civilization.
Johnston has been coiling like a mad man ever since. By tweaking the method--he sews the cotton rope together with colored thread on his vintage Singer--he’s able to produce bags and other vessels that look like they’ve got one handle in the old world and one in the new: part Navajo, part Tommy Hilfiger.
In a sense, the coiling technique is an ancient precursor to the rapid-prototyping technologies that’ve revolutionized craft-making in the 21st century. “I… see the process as a form of analog 3-D printing/ prototyping performed by a sewing machine and with much less precision,” Johnston says. In this way the ‘3-D file’ is in my head as I begin each piece and its formation happens by making certain adjustments to the work while sewing.”
[Images by Michael Popp courtesy of Doug Johnston]