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The Williche basket maker Ismenia Duamante lives and works in the Agoni Alto sector in the community of Queilen. Ismenia, together with her mother, collects several types of reeds, including jonquillo, manila, totora and boqui, species that are increasingly scarce near her house. With these natural fibers, she begins the warp and weft that progressively takes various forms, from the utilitarian and functional to the purely decorative, for domestic and family use, as models for teaching through workshops,  and for commercial use. The different forms that she produces all meet the objective of solving domestic and functional problems, which includes beautifying the everyday environment.

Ismenia began working as a result of a family tradition. She learned her craft through early observation, watching how her mother and grandmother transformed fibers that a few hours before were part of the beauty of the landscape. The materials were always there, between local ravines and hills, in nearby wetlands and forests. The house is equipped with bundles of fibers of different colors and shapes, each of which has undergone a different preparatory treatment. 

Although Ismenia’s workshop is only a few meters from the house, the spaces around the kitchen are essential to organizing the different stages of the basket weaving process, so that what is worked on in the workshop has made its journey by way of the stove where it was cooked, and later the different parts of the house where it was dried.


Once the sticks are dry and the consistency of the fiber allows it to soften between your fingers, the final stage of the process begins. In the moment of knitting is when Ismenia feels her fingers moving naturally, as if her hands are part of a silent dance that transforms visual chaos and intuited mathematics into a rigorously geometric pattern. Whether empty or full, triangular or square, conical or cylindrical, the emerging shape that gives form to a basket, a lamp or a fruit bowl is quickly recognized. Once in use, a living geometry projects through the lights and shadows that play against floors and walls, enriching the look of the everyday world through the warmth of the fiber, and the infinite subtleties that inhabit the ocher, green and yellow tones.

Text by Dan Cameron and Ramón Castillo

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