Basketry is possibly the oldest of crafts. For thousands of years, baskets served as indispensable objects in every culture. Though modern society is less dependent on them, our long connection seems to have left an archetypal imprint, a symbol of elemental simplicity. Their inclusion in our homes can soften the edges of our often hectic daily lives.
I make splint baskets in a wide selection of styles, sizes and finishes, from natural wood to aged paint in many colors.
My first exposure to splint baskets was through the work of the Shaker and Taghkanic basketmakers whose communities were near my home in the upper Hudson Valley of New York State. I pursued the craft, inspired by the idea of making beautiful rugged baskets from native trees with a few simple hand tools.
In 1980, I had the opportunity to work with Newt Washburn, a 4th generation, New Hampshire basketmaker, and from him, I learned many basics of the craft.
I make my baskets from trees that I harvest in the woodlands near my home in the New York State Finger Lakes region. Supple strips of black ash for weaving and dense strong hickory for handles and rims make up each basket.
Black ash trees grow in isolated pockets of cool, wet ground throughout the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada. Truly unique in its ability to separate along the annual layers, it has been used by Native American basketmakers for perhaps thousands of years. I strip an 8-10 log of its bark then pound its length with a steel mallet. Having crushed the spongy fibers between the growth layers, I can peel long strips from the log. These strips are sliced to width and shaved with a knife to a smooth finish.
For rims and handles, I split lengths of shagbark hickory into billets with froe and mallet. For each basket I carve these pieces into handles and rims, bend them to shape, and lash them securely to the basket.