Wasn’t so long ago. I lived in Alabama, making mostly white oak baskets. But then I met a wonderful woman, and…
Now, I’m a displaced Appalachian basket maker residing next to a lake and the coastline of Maine. (I lived here in the 80s but sailed away for southern climes on an old wooden boat.)
Traditional basket makers here have used black ash since early Native American history. I’ve worked with it before, as you can see in the pack baskets below, but it’s a new game to start from the splitting out the tree. Above are coils of split black ash, about half a tree.
I have an old New England bushel basket mold in the process of restoration, and the splits are destined for use on it.
12″w x 22″h
While visiting the Museum of Appalachia, Norris, TN, and admiring John Rice Irwin’s incomparable collection of Appalachian baskets, I was offered the chance to purchase one from his private collection. My eyes were immediately drawn to a large urn-shaped basket with a simple note inside that read, ” Feather basket from Upper E. Tenn. bought at auction by E.L. Martin, Fall 1990.”
The original is shown at left, and my take on it, which looks more like a ginger jar, is above and details of the top and bottom below.
Thanks to John Rice for his pioneering, inspiring work, and research and preservation of the iconic Appalachian crafts.
Every October, the museum hosts it Tennessee Fall Homecoming. People from around the world attend for the old-time music performances, crafts, and the kind of food upon which I was raised and relish.
I’ve enjoyed demonstrating basket making at the festival and hope to join the fun again soon.
This field basket, modeled after one by Vonnie Miller, was quickly made at an annual gathering of white oak basket makers at Mary Ann and Bill Smith’s home in McCalla, AL. About 10 enthusiasts came together to sit under the shade trees of the Smith’s for two days last April. We made baskets, shared stories, techniques, tools and tips.
12″ x 12″ x 10 1/2″
Hand-split white oak and reed; milk paint, varnish
It’s good to break out of strict traditions sometimes, and this basket is about as Billy Ray-goes-wild as it gets. The handle, hoop, wrap and initial woven splits are white oak. The ribs and bulk of weaving are reed. A gift for a friend who needed a basket in her collection that sits way up high on a shelf and says, “Come on up and see me sometime.”