1Sardinian baskets: a symbol of artisanal tradition
The history of the Sardinian basket has its roots in a distant past, rich in traditions.
Sardinia is the island of a thousand treasures and ancient crafts and knowledge such as the weaving techniques, the processing of ceramics, stone, wood and metals, the magic of the goldsmith tradition and the art of weaving from which the beautiful Sardinian baskets come.
Handed down from generation to generation by Sardinian women, and spread throughout the territory since prehistoric times, the art of interweaving vegetable fibres is one of the most fascinating artistic expressions of the island’s handicrafts because it combines manual skills and natural resources, giving life to precious artefacts which today are used almost exclusively for decorative purposes.
The shapes and dimensions of the baskets vary according to the technique, the area of production and the type of material used which includes rushes, dwarf palm, asphodel, willow, reeds, myrtle, lentisk, straw and hay. In Castelsardo they use raffia, rush and dwarf palm, in Sinnai they use straw and rush, in Tinnura, Flussio, Montresta, Ollolai and Sennori their raw material is asphodel, while rush and marsh herbs are used for the baskets in San Vero Milis and Ottana.
Generally, the traditional technique is called the “spiral”: the material is sewn with an iron needle, and the braid often begins with a spiral warp on which the straw is wrapped. Coloured taffeta strips are used for the edgebanding, while the side decorations are made with wool fabrics of different shades depending on the production area. Finally, brocade or damask fabrics are commonly used to protect the bottom of the basket. The craftsmen also pay particular attention to the aesthetic appearance of the baskets, embellished with geometric motifs (chessboard, concentric circles, radial triangles), floral and faunal elements (bird, peacock, horse).
The making of a Sardinian basket is a long and complex process that begins with collecting plants that grow at certain times of the year and pays attention to the harmony with the lunar phases and to avoid the attack of mould and insects. Subsequently, the plants are reduced in gills and dried in the sun. Heat is an essential element in the process because it keeps the material intact, and for this reason, when completed, the baskets are stored in warm environments.
Sardinian baskets are a symbol of the agro-pastoral environment of Sardinia, and in the past, they were hung on the walls of the houses of shepherds and farmers or shown on the shelves like works of art able to transform simple and modest environments into unique places.
Sardinian basket: the different types and uses
A land of nuraghi and unspoilt landscapes, Sardinia is the perfect destination for those who want to embark on a journey to discover an area rich in ancient traditions such as the art of interweaving.
There are three best known Sardinian baskets:
- sa corbula: without handles, truncated-conical, of variable size and in some cases enriched with a lid, the sa corbula is the basket of domestic use as well as a piece of furniture par excellence. Used for baking operations or to measure food, sa corbulas also had an aesthetic function and were hung on the wall as paintings or put on shelves to make homes more welcoming. This type of basket is made with wheat straw, asphodel, rush or raffia obtained from the dwarf palm. In addition, to make corbule out of rush and asphodel, they use a brading technique called “continuous growth” in which one proceeds with spirals and each turn is anchored to the previous one thanks to a pointed object that acts as a needle and blocks the tips;
- sa canistedda: is a wide basket, various in size and low edges. This basket with a lid is mainly used as a container for the storage of esplanades and carasau bread;
- sa Pischedda: is the working basket made of cane. Used for harvesting and transporting fruit, mushrooms, wild fennel and other foods, it is the only kind of Sardinian basket with a handle.
The corbulas and baskets were an important part of the “strexu de fenu” (dishes in hay), baskets that in the past were part of the bride’s dowry. The corbulas were mostly of three different types:
- crobi manna or crobe manna: larger than the other two corbules, it was the Sardinian basket used for the conservation of freshly baked bread that was covered with a wool cloth to keep it soft and fragrant for as long as possible;
- crobedda: is a medium-sized basket that could contain fruits, vegetables, sweets and other non-bulky products;
- crobededda: the smallest of the three baskets, was used as a container for eggs or to bring sliced bread to the table.
Another interesting anecdote about corbule is related to “is piccioccus de crobi” (the basket boys) who in Cagliari, between the end of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century, carried bread, cakes, fruit, vegetables and fish from one side of the city to the other. These children, often without a family, barefoot, badly dressed and undernourished, spent their days near the entrance of the city market waiting for some lady of the bourgeoisie to entrust them with the transport of groceries all the way home in exchange for a few pennies.
The ancient art of interweaving lives on in the Museo dell’Intreccio del Mediterraneo, in the medieval castle of the Doria di Castelsardo, but for those who want to buy a wonderful Sardinian basket, it is advisable to lose yourself in the streets of the historic districts of Cagliari and discover the ancient shops that guard the secrets of the island basket handicrafts.
Would you like to discover the ancient art of weaving and Sardinian baskets? Book your stay at Palazzo Doglio in Cagliari