Image: Detail of Cassi's baskets made from recycled textiles © Alun Callender
When we interviewed French artist Emma Cassi in 2010 for Selvedge Issue 34: Romance, it was for her delicately hand embroidered and beaded jewellery, fashioned from ‘precious scraps’ of antique lace. Now, she has turned her hand to basketry, creating textile bowls from recycled materials. We asked her some questions about her creative process.
Why did you start to make baskets using fabric?
I started during the first lockdown when I couldn't go to my usual pottery course or fire my pots properly. While working with clay at home, to fully get the movement of coiling, I started making pots and bowls with my leftovers fabrics, embroidered silk and my precious vintage French linen. I make lots of craft projects, I paint, I draw but fabric is my main source of inspiration because of the soft touch...
Image: Emma Cassi in her studio © Alun Callender
How does this process compare to pottery - are there any similarities?
I start by cutting long strings of fabric and make piles based on the colours I want to put together. In pottery, you make coils, rolling the clay between your palms to have long sausage shapes. To form a bowl shape, you just have to wind the coil around for its entire length so it flares out gently. I shape the fabric sewing by hand or with a sewing machine, using my potter's whirler to make the shape I want by twisting and creating a spiral design. From time to time you have to choose if you want your pot to go in or out, then with fabric, this is where I have to decide if I take a stretchy or stiff fabric depending on the structure I want.
Image: Emma's collaboration with TextileSeekers
How do you source the textiles that you use?
When I was a jewellery designer I used to collect lots of vintage fabric that I bought in flea markets in France or at the Hammersmith vintage fair. From my travels, I always bring back fabrics from Japan: kimono fabric, sake bags; from Kenya: beaded and raffia fabric; from Morocco: wool or leftovers materials used for making rugs and carpets. I am currently collaborating with TextileSeekers on a collection of baskets made from a hand-embroidered Thai scarf.
You can find out more about Emma’s work on her website.