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]