mago, Persons, Places

A Man Who Makes Baskets

On my visit to the country fair this caught my attention :


Koerbe 1


Baskets made from splint, Spankörbe. He made them there.


Koerbe 2


I had asked him before I took the photograph. He visits the fair every year, but is not sure about the coming year. He’s in his late seventies and has no successor, and in his village he is the last Spankorbmacher. He does not work with willow, he makes no wicker baskets. The stuff you see in the next picture in the foreground is what he uses, gespantes Holz.


Koerbe 3


He said that the actual making of a basket is in the end the shortest part of his work. Preparing the wood takes much longer.
The craft is still taught (here), but I think it’s a small school.
I especially liked that he just came with his baskets, a chair and his tools & materials. No coffee tables, no banks or free lunch for the “important” guests, just a man who makes baskets.


16 thoughts on “A Man Who Makes Baskets

  1. I am not sure what you mean with “type”, LX. You know a “Hobel” ? Basically a knife, a blade is drawn or pushed over wood, and takes off a certain amount of the wood’s surface. It can be used to make the woods surface plane – hence the name. But you can use it too to get a long “Span” of a continuing thickness. What the “Hobel” takes off is a “Span”. When one “zerspant” something he cuts it into different layers – for metal it is basical the same procedure, but of course with machines and often in the form of a drill. The hole it produces it not shot through, but a constant movement takes off from the surrounding material continuously a “Span” – these curly things.
    I do not think that the Spanmacher uses a Hobel, they developed over time own tools.
    I am not sure what kind of wood he uses, Kiefer / pine as you say may be the most likely. They used anything from the trees, Kiefer is also good for Kienspan, what you use when you have to start a fire, or keep a flame alive, the Harz was also important. The trick is to make “Späne” and keep them flexible. They do not crack or brake, one can use them also as Gurt, girth or flange. When done properly the products will stay intact for ages. Nowadays Spanschachteln, small boxes made from this kind of wood, are still used for selling fruits like strawberries and similar.

  2. The baskets he makes were often used for bread dough – when it has to sit and be left alone (der Teig muss gehen) they used these baskets, put in a cloth, the dough, and put cloth over it and let it sit. When finished you carry it in the basket to the oven, and put the finished bread in the basket to carry it to the place where it cools out. Other baskets were used on the fields. For other uses wicker baskets were better. There is a lot of knowledge connected with these simple things.

  3. I wish I could have gone with you! We would do well as fair companions. I typically do not like to shop, but I love to learn how things are made. If I can afford to, I try to buy a small purchase in support of them. For those that make huge, gorgeous time consuming work all I can offer is many nice words. I won’t put the family into debt by buying a nice rug.

  4. Ponita says:

    Those baskets are lovely! I would buy a couple, put small blankets in, and voila! cat beds!! They are lovely and it’s too bad he has no one to pass his knowledge to.

  5. I like the fine natural linen table-cloth! The wood is pine, I know (carpenter’s daughter ;-))

    Spanschachteln are also used for Camembert cheese – in France originally made of cottonwood (the Spanschachtel, not the cheese). I read an article that they have a manque of cottonwood because this tree is a threatened species there, they missed to plant enough new ones:

  6. No need to be sorry LX. And Ann confirms your observation.

    Another good use Ponita ! Yes, but the basic skills are still taught, so the profession does not die out.

    Yes, French cheese comes in those small round wooden boxes. When I went with the train regularly I saw rows of poplars planted besides ditches – I think they and birch like wet ground. But a storm (and not even a particular strong one) fell them and one could see that most of the trees were rotten inside, Annakamaga.
    Just read the article – whow, what a useful tree the Pappel is !

  7. Oh dear – manners – sorry for not answering Melanie !
    Yes – how things are made, that’s the interesting point ! I think his baskets were reasonably priced. At least he sold some (three or four) while I hung around his place, within 20 minutes. I have no clue whether this was a coincidence.

  8. The French are in need for this wood Ponita, they simply are running out of it. They have not planted enough trees over the last twenty years. The cottonwood / Pappel is fast growing and within twenty years it can be harvested – they simply made mistakes with their planning. And the cheese connoisseurs say that it makes a notable difference, if the cheese is in a wooden box or in a plastic one. After all the piece of cheese stays in this container for some time.

    If it’s possible I get you some next year, dear Z.

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