We Love GAA Baskets: Bringing New Life To A Fading Craft
GAA’s rush baskets are weaving together the stands of history and modernity, rebuilding a tradition that threatens to be lost. We love the simple, unobtrusive design, as the designer behind GAA, Chia En-Lu, grew up sleeping on rush mattress during hot summer nights, when air conditioning was a distant, unavailable luxury. Rush– a grass-like plant– is lightweight and durable, a breathable, moisture-absorbing natural product that acts as a repellent to fleas and dust mites, making it a comfortable choice for the heat– a beautiful story of an experience come full circle, which is why we’re so excited to host this product in the GC Shop.
As globalization brought modern conveniences and other pre-made products into the market, people began to turn away traditional materials like rush, leading to a sharp decline in the industry. Discouraged by this cultural loss, En decided to preserve the amazing rush weaving craftsmanship by designing her own line of products. She had worked with the material once before, in 2008 for Muji Award competition, where she won bronze.
With the help of the Taiwan Yuan-Li Handiwork Association (which was founded in 2003 with the dual purpose of keeping crafted traditions alive and ensuring well-paid employment within the artisan community), En began creating her baskets, drawing on the history of Taiwan as inspiration for the woven designs. The insight to use copper came from En’s personal background in metal smithing, which was her college major.
Together, the unlikely pair form an elegant piece. The rough, handmade texture of the rush grass contrasts with the smooth, seamless touch of the copper rim. There is a balance between the natural element– the small imperfections in the color of rushes– and the metal’s clean lines, blending Taiwanese tradition with Scandinavian design (En lived for a while in Helsinki). “Rush and raw copper are both living materials that need some taking care of,” En told us, explaining her choice to pair the two. “They have such beautiful contrast.”
The rush woven baskets’ origins resonate with a global narrative: the devaluing of artisan work, particularly among non-Western countries. The vulnerability of folk crafts is acutely felt throughout the world, but especially in countries where colonialism has left its scars. Globalization is not a force that can be fought– nor should it be necessarily, as En’s work finds beauty in blending two distant cultures. En’s work is a part of a global legacy, modeling a way in which to preserve the past– if not remedying the old hurts then at least protecting tradition from further erasure– and carving a place for it in the future.