Billy Ray Sims Basketmaker

Clam Basket Project

The Essex Shipbuilding Museum (MA) has created a project to replicate a vintage clamming skiff and harvest basket, for which I’m digging in on research for the basket.

Here’s the model we’ll follow.

And for a white oak basket maker and wooden boat artisan, it’s a dream project.

The basket is made with #11 gauge galvanized wire and woven with white oak from near the museum.

In the coming weeks, we’ll split out harvested logs, make jigs and molds so that we can replicate the basket and prepare for community classes to make more.

Stay tuned and plan to join us as the schedule takes shape.

Come to Maine this spring and summer and join me for traditional basket making classes tailored to your interests.

Make baskets by day and go for a sail, row, or trout fishing in lake Megunticook next to our house, or a sail in Penobscot Bay (check Google maps) this spring and summer.



072BillyRayIMG_0858 copy

This site features the work of basket maker Billy Ray Sims, and offers baskets for sale. If you don’t see a traditional splint basket you covet, Billy Ray will be happy to create a one-of-a-kind basket to your specifications. Email for more info.

Anatomy Lesson: White Oak Basket


This basket has three rows of sterling silver woven in each side.

Potato Basket and Mini-Spud


10″W x 4″H
securedownload-1A challenging commission, shown in the foreground, came from a client who wanted a version of the potato basket you can read more about below.

But when I informed her how large the original basket is —23″-wide— she asked for something a little smaller. Hence, the petite outcome.

So-Called Feather Basket

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.”

DSCF1776 My heart and pocketbook went out the window, and I brought the old basket home with me.

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.



Corn Basket

white oak field basket14″ H x 18″ W

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.

Painted Lady

egg basket

Gizzard Basket

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.”