I am a basketmaker working on my farm in the Skagit Valley near Mount Vernon, Washington. I grow a large selection of basketry willows which allows me to choose from an array of natural colors. My goal is to weave baskets that are functional and durable while reflecting the natural beauty of the willows.
I weave baskets using traditional European stake and strand willow basketry techniques and the hand tools of the craft. From the harvest of the willows to the finished baskets the work is all done by hand. I have traveled several times to Europe to study the basketmaking traditions, explore the willow growing areas, and collect new varieties to plant for my work. I am helping to preserve these traditional willow basketry skills while rooting my craft in our Pacific Northwest landscape.
My primary materials are the willow withies that are harvested annually in the winter months on our farm. The willows are coppiced or cut back to the stool near ground level. Most are slender one year old rods but some are older for producing the necessary larger sticks. Willow bark is peeled in the spring and summer from rods that are grown for several years to a larger size before harvest.
I began teaching basketry in 2004. My classes emphasize different techniques and styles of willow basketry. I teach near my home in Mount Vernon, as well as travelling to teach by invitation from organizations including the National Basketry Organization and the Peters Valley School of Crafts.
I was a featured artist in the National Basketry Organization Quarterly Review (Spring 2013) and profiled in the article “Katherine Lewis: Willow Basketmaker” in Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot magazine (Spring 2010) published by the Handweavers Guild of America. The Smithsonian American Art Museum acquired several of my baskets in 2011 as part of the Cole Ware Collection, which documents the revival of traditional basketry in the United States during the past fifty years. My work is included in the exhibition catalog “A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets” written by Renwick Gallery curator Nicholas Bell.
Katherine Lewis Willow Baskets is a member of the National Basketry Organization, Northwest Designer Craftsmen, Northwest Basket Weavers Guild and the Basketmakers’ Association (UK).