Telephone Wire Baskets, also commonly called Zulu wire baskets, come in many colourful designs, shapes, and sizes. From small wire bowls that fit in the palm of your hand to large wire bowls which make superb African decor, whether they are placed as a table centrepiece or hung on a wall as art. Traditionally, Zulu women have superb colour coordination skills and combine aesthetically pleasing combinations and designs, but they will also weave baskets to customer requirements. Telephone wire baskets can be cleaned with warm water and mild dish-cleaning liquid.




Telephone wire basket weaving art originated with the African night shift security workers who used age-old grass basket weaving techniques to decorate their security sticks (knobkerries) with discarded telephone wire. These skills were taken back to the rural villages and passed onto their wives and daughters who now make the beautiful wire baskets of today. Zulu wire baskets have gained popularity around the globe so much so that numerous wire weavers have turned this art form into a full-time job to support themselves and their families.


With the growth of the Zulu Wire basket "industry" the wire weavers have moved away from discarded telephone wire and now use new wire which is purchased in rolls allowing the weavers the opportunity to weave bowls in a vast array of colours.




The pattern/design of the weave shown on the telephone wire basket is dependent on the skill of the individual wire weavers. Generally speaking, the smaller bowls with fewer colours are woven in a receding spiral design by the less skilful weavers. The highly skilled weavers make large platters with more than 10 different colours in complicated swirling "jagged" cut-back designs. These bowls are highly prized as wall art.




Telephone wire bowls are extremely labor-intensive often taking a wire weaver a few days to make a single bowl. All wire baskets are woven around a mould that forms the shape. The weaver requires great strength in their hands and fingers to pull the wire firmly to create a bowl with a tight weave.


STEP 1. Heavy gauge wire is measured to fit exactly around the outer edge of the mould, and then telephone wire is wound tightly around this heavy gauge wire. This is then tied in place through holes drilled around the outer edge of the mould.


STEP 2. The Zulu wire weaver starts weaving from the outer edge and follows the shape of the mould inwards, eventually finishing at the bottom centre. The below image is a bowl-shaped mould, therefore, as the mould decreases in size, the weaver will need to continually snip off strands of wire until all the excess wire is trimmed off in the centre of the bowl when finished.


STEP 3. The finished basket is still attached to the mould, which is now untied.


STEP 4. The basket usually has a small raised point of twisted wire in the centre where the last of the wires was cut off. This is levelled by simply placing the basket on a flat surface and giving this raised point a light hammering until smooth.




Below are a few beautiful telephone wire baskets for sale on this website. You can see the full range here.