Willow wicker craft, known locally as 'kaeni keam' is the intricate art of basket weaving in Kashmir in northern India. It is an indigenous industry in the region and one of the oldest crafts of Kashmir valley. But its products, once seen in every home, are now witnessing a decline. The craft is also known as shaakhsaazi. The word “shaakhsaazi” comprises of two words, “shaak” meaning slender pliable branches and “saazi” meaning the act of weaving. The journey from raw wicker prunes to decorous creations is a very interesting one, that starts with harvesting the willow twigs. These twigs are then grouped according to the required length and breadth, called “withe" -- a strong flexible willow stem which is boiled and then peeled. Withies are used as raw materials for manufacturing different willow products. Several products are made from wicker, including tokris, dry-fruit bowls, round cups, decorative ducks, buckets, chapatis, kangris, etc. Willow plants grow up to three metres in height and the crop is harvested in October.
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