Underground Basket Weaving for Beginners  for antiuniversity @ArcadeCampfa

Whitchurch Asylum Archive  newspaper cutting 

~ The Basket Exchange

Ongoing socially engaged artwork which focuses on historical and present day theory about therapeutic work. The project emerged from the overlap between my experience as a long term mental health service user and my interest as an artist in basket making as a cultural practice, a means of communicating, a conduit.
Basket weaving has long been associated with the stereotypes of neurodiversity - ‘basket case’, originally used to describe casualties of WW1, being a familiar one. Partly a reaction to the use of restraint, ‘moral work’ which became ‘moral treatment’, then ‘therapeutic work’, was introduced in the early 1800s.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and there clearly still exists within mental health services (both in and outpatient), a belief that there is a value in this type of treatment, but provision is lacking, ranging from a box of aging art materials being brought onto the ward twice a week for patients to 'do craft’ , to overstretched community OTs supporting patients, post discharge, to engage with the outside world.
My interest in basket weaving began early in 2018, when I started visiting the archivist at Whitchurch Hospital, where I had been an inpatient on a number of occasions. Amongst the archives are a collection of wicker work and basketry made by patients from the 1950s onwards,  I found them profoundly moving. These precious artefacts which carry within them so much mental pain and such historical significance prompted me to attempt to teach myself to weave with wicker. In July 2018, I ran the Underground Basket Weaving for Beginners sessions at ArcadeCardiff for antiuniversity so that others could also learn with me, a kind of co learning experience, which led to the inception of the Basket Exchange. This has developed into a one on one interaction which provides a social/practical/metaphorical space to consider what happens to us when we engage in the act of making together. Sometimes a dialogue will take place, sometimes not, but we will make two baskets, one for you and one for me, and they will forever be a record of this time we have spent together.

Willow baskets hanging in Llandough Hospital,  made during one to one and group sessions with inpatients at Hafan y Coed Adult Mental Health Unit.