I am always drawn to vessels. Mixing bowls, canoes, bathtubs. I like insides and outsides. Things with insides and outsides interact with the space around them. They keep things in, keep things together; but they can also keep things out, protecting what is inside. They can hide things. Sometimes when you look inside there is a surprise.
Vessels are also such a human form. Don’t we all have interiors and exteriors?
To my mind the first vessel was two hands cupped together and the first basket weave was the intertwining of fingers. Humans have made baskets for thousands of years. And they have made them with whatever they: cedar bark in Alaska; bamboo in Japan; discarded telephone wire today in South Africa There is no end to the possibilities when it comes to making a basket. The rich traditions of basket making from around the world provide many possible architectures and countless fiber techniques. Baskets are an invitation to play with shape, color and texture.
Over twenty years of studying with basket makers throughout North America, I have learned many traditional techniques and worked with every imaginable material. I have pulled bark, dug roots and searched the aisles of hardware stores for the perfect wire mesh. I used to make baskets to hold crayons, apples, warm bread and folded laundry.
Now I order my materials online and consider function nary a whit as I weave.
In the past eight years I have focused on twining waxed linen thread although I still turn to coiling and knotting when my fingers beg for variation.
My work is sculptural and involves building baskets with “patches” of different twining patterns. I loved old patchwork quilts as a child and used to spend hours examining the patches, which in those days really did come from old shirts and dresses. They were full of design and history. Today I am making patchwork vessels.
As I move upwards on a piece, I build horizon after horizon. Now, there is nothing I love more than a horizon. I have what my grandmother called “itchy feet” and would happily live the life on a vagabond, always on the move, always curious about what is on the other side of the mountain.
I also developed some techniques to create dramatic changes in shaping and added a second inner wall, both to add stability and to set a more orderly field of color in contrast to the chaos on the outer wall. Even I like to come home once in a while.
For me, these pieces have come to be about curiosity and restlessness. Each mountain or patch is interesting in itself, but there are oh-so-many mountains demanding a look, so many color combinations, so many variations in design.
They are also about things coming together. All the patches in a beautiful quilt, varied as they may be, form a unified field. And all the experiences we have in life, varied as they may be, come together as well. I have had a patchwork life. When I make a basket it all comes together.
I can’t know what my work will be about for other people, but I hope it will provoke something, that it will be a starting place for an emotion or a thought. And, missionary that I am, I hope it will convert them to being artists in their own way, always looking for what is beautiful and interesting, perhaps where they least expect it. And I hope it will make them appreciate, even briefly, how wonderful and complex the world is.