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Published Apr 1, 2009

At first glance, one might assume that Shuji Ikeda's baskets (like the one at the left) are woven out of reeds. But Ikeda uses slabs and extruded pieces of clay to painstakingly construct these forms. It takes a lot of patience, but the end results are exquisite, as you can see. Shuji calls this work tsuchi kago, which literally translates to "clay basket." Today, Shuji shares how he makes his tsuchi kago. - Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor

Weaving Baskets Out of Clay

Shuji Ikeda's favorite form is the handbuilt basket. These forms blend a solid architectural stateliness with an intricate texture of coils and strips of clay that have been wrapped, braided and woven, or fashioned into delicate twigs and leaves.

I have been watching the evolution of Shuji's baskets for several years now. Earlier versions were direct interpretations of Japanese flower-arranging baskets known as hanakago, which are constructed from twigs, reeds or split bamboo. His newer work shows a more personal touch. "I am trying to create a kind of metaphor by mixing two ways of mimicking nature," he explains.

All parts are measured and cut from slabs and extrusions.

Joins are reinforced with extruded coils.

Once the walls are assembled, the top slab is attached.

Once the legs are attached and reinforcement strips are added to the corners and bottom edge, notches are cut from the top for the extruded handle, and extruded coils are wrapped around the corners.

The coils are attached one by one.

The handle is wrapped with long coils.

Flat coils are carefully braided for side insets.

The braids are measured and cut to fit precisely.

To see more of Shuji's work or learn more about him, visit