Bull Kelp Experiment 2


Ene and I returned to Salmon Creek Beach on the last negative low tide and harvested another load of stray kelp for a new experiment. I found a larger piece of tapered, round driftwood to use as a form for a basket and calculated how many strands of kelp would be required to make a rudimentary weave.


Back at the studio, I set up the driftwood form, looped the larger diameter strands of kelp around nails to make the basket’s ‘ribs’ and proceeded to weave the thinner strands in a spiral, beginning at the base where the ribs intersected.


It occurred to me that the nails could be replaced with wooden pegs, and that the larger loops of kelp wrapped around them could be adapted to attach the basket’s handle when the form dries.


After about a week of dry weather in dappled shade with very little sea fog rolling in, the kelp basket had dried enough to hold its shape when removed from the form. This experiment used 8 pieces of 6-9 foot long kelp and took about 45 minutes to weave. A tighter basket would take at least twice the amount of kelp and a bit more care and time to shape. With a double-ended driftwood form mounted to a post and two people working in tandem, the process could be quite sociable, with two baskets made over an evening conversation.

Better yet, a sequence of driftwood forms could be assembled on the beach after a winter storm when the large bundles deposit on the shore. A group of friends could gather to make a kelp basket production party around a driftwood bonfire, which might also speed the drying and curing of the material.

5 replies on “Bull Kelp Experiment 2”

  1. Scott,

    Have you tried the biodiesel yet to see if it kept your dried kelp pliable? I’ve been wanting to try my own experiments w/bull kelp. Have your tried glycerin? Linseed oil?

    Beth Garrison
    Sitka, Alaska

  2. Hi Beth-
    I did try the biodiesel and it seems to have worked pretty well. I have not yet tested it against anything else, but the biodiesel cured the kelp into a fairly flexible, stable, leathery strand once it’s shrunken. It’s still a bit brittle, but less so than with no treatment. I soaked the dried kelp for a few days, and let it dry for another couple of days. Please keep in touch if you learn anything new.

  3. Hello Scott,
    My kelp baskets seem to adsorb water after about a year. This makes them slum to a sad looking heap.

    Did your biodiesal work? Or have you found anything else that helps them mainatin the shape?

    May thanks, Leslie

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