The Baskets | As Cestas

The Baskets | As Cestas is an investigation into one of Portugal’s most multi-purposed tree species, the chestnut.

The Baskets is the result of an experimental and non-verbal collaborative design process with the chestnut basket makers Joaquim and Irene Venâncio, some of the last craftsmen of their kind from Famalicão da Serra in Portugal. An four-weeks experiment, that resulted in a new typology and open-ended objects that exaggerates the character of its construction, the core of this craft in itself.

Project development within the scope of the 4-weeks residency Supernatural Togetherness of Art(e)facts21 – Knowledge Biennial 2021 in Portugal.

For centuries, the chestnut was a multi-purposed tree in the Portuguese culture - the bread tree has historical, economic and social importance unmatched by any other tree species in Portugal, especially in the northern and central part of the country. Chestnut was, historically, a valued tree across the whole society, providing wood for construction, roofing, furniture, baskets, tools as well as its use for firewood. Nowadays large stands of chestnut trees are protected by law and since a few years chestnut cultivation has endured and can even be described as flourishing in Portugal.

The object appears simply, yet it illustrates the knowledge and practices of lifelong experiences that still requires the skill-full human hand. In the neighboring parishes of Guarda basket weaving dates back more than 400 years, it seams to subsist invisibly. Basketry appears as one of the most humble of crafts, used over the millennia to make functional and cyclical objects found in all aspects of people's daily lives. Within the fragile spaces of the forest the craft displays a centuries old practice that is also deeply characterized by the synergies between human and non-human actors. In nowadays throw-away society traditional basket makers are true conservationists. In a natural circulation of matter, nothing but water and heat is added to the processed parts. All of them are able to go back to the forest as nutrition.