Check Out Artist Gaye Chan’s Hand-Woven Plastic Baskets at Hawai‘i State Art Museum
The baskets, made from plastic bale straps, are available at the HiSAM Museum Gallery Shop.
Editor’s Note: Through our partnership with the Hawai‘i State Art Museum, HONOLULU Magazine publishes a monthly blog written by Lisa Shiroma, owner of the HiSAM Museum Gallery Shop.
Artist and activist Gaye Chan is on a personal mission to keep plastic bale straps, those strips of plastic usually seen wrapped around boxes, from entering our landfills and oceans. Despite a hectic work schedule as chair of the UH Mānoa Art Department, Chan makes time to drive around to collect the straps from multiple businesses in Honolulu. She then takes them home, cleans each strap and weaves them into chic, utilitarian baskets that you can buy at the HiSAM Museum Gallery Shop.
Chan uses these baskets to make an environmental statement but also to emphasize where basket weaving stands in the art world and in current world economics. “‘Basket weaving’ is often used as an insult to belittle someone’s work. Many kinds of skills and knowledge related to self-sufficiency have been similarly denigrated,” Chan says. To help empower others, she has led basket making workshops at HiSAM and even has free step-by-step downloadable instructions on her website, nomoola.com/baskets. Chan’s baskets have gained a cult following and she even has her own Instagram account, @foraged_in_entirety, chronicling her adventures creating baskets out of this extremely sturdy material. Her pet cat, Sabi, is often featured modeling with newly completed plastic bale strap baskets.
Since starting her basket weaving crusade, Chan has developed relationships with businesses such as Honolulu Cookie Co. and Geobunga. They support her cause by saving their plastic bale straps for weekly pickups. She laments: “Detritus of global capitalism, bale straps are found around nearly every box shipped across the globe. Binding box to box, paper to paper, everything to pallets. Used once and discarded into the waste stream.” These plastic bale straps come in a variety of colors, sizes and degrees of firmness. Since starting to weave baskets in 2012, Chan has made more than 500 to date, giving these industrial materials a new life and purpose.
Find some of her baskets at the HiSAM Museum Gallery Shop, 250 S. Hotel St., $50–$70.
isa Shiroma is the owner of the HiSAM Museum Gallery Shop and runs it with partners Aly Ishikuni-Sasaki and Travis Sasaki from Mori by Art + Flea.
Lisa worked as gallery manager for Koa Art Gallery at KCC from 2014 to 2017.
In July 2017, Lisa, Travis and Aly renovated and reopened the Hawai‘i State Art Museum’s gift shop space as a new art gallery and gift shop “for Hawai‘i artists, by Hawai‘i artists.”