It was Joe Hogan, with his book Basketmaking in Ireland that brought the Irish potato basket back into everyday use in Ireland. Joe did a lot of research into traditional Irish baskets. One of them is the skib.
The skib was used to strain and serve potatoes.
The potatoes were boiled in a big pot on the open fire, then strained outside through the skib. The basket was then brought inside and put on the table if the family had one. If not the skib would be put down on a stump of wood or the cooking pot, serving as a table essentially. The whole family would sit around and tuck in. This is one reason some of the skibs were so large. After the meal the basket was rinsed and hung on the outside wall to dry.
The skib has a characteristic grid in the middle. Why exactly is not fully known. It could have been to let water through more effectively or it could have been a design that grew from the lack of very flexible material. When starting a basket with this grid structure the base sticks do not need to bend out as much. Convenient if you willow is a bit thicker then it needs to be, or not from a great variety. Hazel could also have been used.
When I first started making baskets the skib always drew people’s attention. This has not stopped since. The base of this basket is a great canvas to work with different coloured willows of different varieties. It might not be used for its intended purpose anymore but the skib is back in the Irish households. And even further afield. They look stunning on a wall both in a contemporary or a traditional setting.
This is a basket with a story.
And it seems the story is not finished yet!
The full range of skibs is now available in my online shop. Check it out here.