History of Gift Baskets

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Baskets have always played an important role in history. Even in Biblical times Moses' mother could not hide her child any longer from the Pharaoh. She put him in a wicker basket and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile river.

After accepting Christianity, the apostle Paul escaped to safety by being lowered in a basket out of the city walls of Damascus. Imagine Betsy Ross pulling thread from her sewing basket, putting together the stars and stripes of the American flag.

Before "paper or plastic", baskets were a major way people transported goods. They were an essential part yesterday and are just as vital today, but their usage has changed.

Basket making survives in many parts of the world today in forms, techniques, and materials similar to those used in past ages. While continuing as a living tradition, it has undergone a revival of interest among craftspeople, leading to new forms of expression. Just as weavers make pictures with tapestry, basket makers now use basketry techniques to create sculpture.

Traditionally, basket makers gather and prepare their own materials. Until you have grasped the medium, you may prefer to purchase your materials. Rattan core, know to most of us as reed, has been used in this country to some extent for many years. However, the increasing number of new basket makers, coupled with the scarcity of native woods, has meant that larger quantities of supplies must be imported to replace many of the natural materials that were once used. Flat reed has replaced oak, ash and hickory splits. Round reed has replaced oak, willow and other vine-like materials that were used for ribbed or twined baskets; it has even replaced natural materials that once served as the "core" of coiled baskets. So, the kind or size of reed chosen today depends on the type of basket to be made.

There are generally five types of basketry. "Coiled" basketry tends to use grasses and rushes. "Plaiting" uses materials that are wide and ribbon-like, such as palms or yucca. "Twining" uses materials from roots and tree bark. "Wicker" and "Splint" baskets use reed, cane, willow, oak and ash.

There is always some controversy about the origins of the names of baskets. In times past, baskets were usually named for their uses, the location in which they were made, the people who made them or occasionally objects that the basket resembled. The Shaker Cat-Head basket, for instance, is so called because the basket resembles a cat's head when it is held upside down, and because it was made in Shaker communities. Although a square "market type" basket called a Kentucky Egg Basket can be found, the most universally known egg basket is the "flat-" or "twined-bottomed" basket associated with the mountain areas of the southeastern United States. It was probably used for gathering eggs because the eggs didn't roll in the gizzard-shaped bottom. Evidently, more people gathered potatoes in a round, side-handled basket than any other; hence the potato basket. Sometime along the way, someone realized that a shallow basket with a tall handle was perfect for gathering flowers, so today we have a flower or provender basket. The oriole basket only looks like an oriole's nest -- it is not meant for birds. When it comes to basket names, either a particular name "caught on" and lasted through the ages or it didn't, and was called something different by everyone that used it.

An interesting fact about the age-old craft of basket making is that, while many other crafts have become mechanized, no one has ever invented a machine that can make baskets. They are still handmade, even in Taiwan. It's not even an easy task to mass-produce baskets with the aid of molds, electric saws and sanders, and a multitude of "assembly line" processes. In fact, no one has ever improved upon the earliest and most basic techniques of basket making.

Today, basket makers range from the purist who still fells the trees to make the traditional utilitarian baskets, to the artist-basketmaker, whose interest is primarily aesthetic and who uses and and every material imaginable. Typically, beginning basket makers experiment with many techniques and eventually settle on one or two preferred styles or methods.

Gift baskets today

There is a new day in the history of baskets. Baskets have changed their popularity as the transporter and have become the gift: a perfect expression of thanks and appreciation. Filled with a number of savory, gourmet food items, wrapped with cellophane, and topped with a beautiful bow.

Baskets have emerged in history as the modern solution to the age old question: what should we get them? Now, the last pressing question for you to answer is which gift basket company do you use?

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Contact: Brent Connolly - New Zealand Gifts Mall - 6/260 Muritai Road - Eastbourne - Wellington - NZ - ph +64 4 5627144

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