NBO member Sherri West sent along this wonderful story to share with the basketry community:
The Basket Weaver
by DeAnn Rasmussen
August 1, 2022
I learned to weave baskets in the early 1980’s, when I lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There were a lot of little stores in the area that sold a large variety of commercial basket weaving materials, and taught all manner of basket styles. It was a great learning experience. Shortly after that, I moved to a very small town in northwest Wisconsin that was surrounded by lakes and forest. Quite the change from the big city. There were no stores in the area that sold basket weaving materials, and no one teaching any classes. However, I still wanted to weave baskets, so I decided to see what I could find in the woods to use for baskets. It was quite the learning experience. Lots of trial and error. It took me a few years to figure out just which indigenous materials would actually work. I learned what season to gather things in, how to prepare and store them, and how to put them to the best use. Being self-taught in such a large undertaking, is daunting to say the least.
I became known as the ‘basket lady’, and people would bring me things that they thought I might be able to use. One of the best things that someone brought me was a large popple log. My neighbor was cutting firewood, and thought the log might be some use to me. I cut the outer bark off with a draw knife, cut the cambium layer into strips, coiled them up to dry, and had beautiful flat reed to build several wonderful baskets. The worst thing anyone ever brought me was a road killed porcupine. I had been using quills for some of my baskets, so it seems like a good idea. However, it was a very hot summer day, and when I got home from work, the porkie was stinkin’ to high heaven. I shoveled it into a cardboard box, took it out to the woods for a decent burial, put down tobacco and wished it a safe journey to the spirit world.
Red Willow became one of my favorite materials to use. It was abundant, accessible, renewable, and beautiful to work with. One, day, some friends of mine who had friends that were expecting a baby, asked if I would make a red willow basket for the baby. I was thinking that they wanted a nice little basket to put on a shelf to hold baby powder and other little things. Oh no, they wanted a bassinet! I accepted the challenge, and gathered willow and wove on that basket for well over one week. As I worked, the essence of the willow entered into my very pores and became a part of me. It soon became a song in my heart and soul. When I finished making the basket, I wrote down the words that were in my heart, and “Basket Song” became something to remind me of the days, when the red willow became a part of me. It is not often that we create something that becomes a treasured memory. The red willow bassinet is one that I will always hold in my heart. I didn’t think to take a picture of it, and it was shipped to the couple at their home in Florida. I never even got to see the sweet baby in the basket. I can only hope that over time, the basket has held many babies, to cradle them in dreams, “of dancing stars, and singing streams.”
Listen closely, baby dear,
while spirits whisper in your ear,
and softly sing a woodland tune,
as you slumber ‘neath the moon.
For from our gentle mother Earth,
the willow seed has given birth,
and nurtured from the sun on high,
it reaches out to touch the sky.
The downy little songbirds know
a song to make the willow grow.
And so the song is ever there
to lull you as you nestle there.
The soft warm breezes hear the tune,
and late at night, beneath the moon,
the rhythm of the cradles born
to rock you gently until morn.
Thru moonlit nights and sunny days
the growing willow marks the ways
of all the things that make it strong
and adds them to its inner song.
Now the circle is complete;
a basket for the baby sweet.
A place to cradle you in dreams
of dancing stars and singing streams.
DPT May 13, 1986
NBO member Nancy McKeown is pleased to announce the publication of her book, “Coiled Pine Needle Basketry Stitch List”. Nancy is a prolific graphic artist who has worked producing projects for both print and web within a variety of commercial, non-profit, and educational positions over nearly 30 years. Her zest for visually clarifying information matches that of her relatively new-found love of pine needle basketry.
The book covers step-by-step instructions with meticulously detailed illustrations for all of the basic stitches commonly used in pine needle basketry today. The list is further expanded to include more complex stitches, and some of the combinations that can create intricate patterns in pine needle works. More information at Nancy McKeown – Pine Needle Basketry.
NBO Member Gyöngy Laky is pleased to announce the publication of her new book, “Screwing with Order: assembled art, actions, and art practice”.
“Renowned American textile artist and sculptor Gyöngy Laky (b. 1944) was once described as a ‘wood whisperer.’ Her highly individual, puzzle-like assemblages of timber and textiles helped to significantly propel the growth of the contemporary fiber-arts movement. Laky’s art traverses an extraordinary personal story: Born amid the bombings of World War II, she escaped from post-war, Soviet-dominated Hungary; was sponsored by a family in Ohio, went to grade school in Oklahoma, and went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley. She followed this by founding the Fiberworks Center for Textile Arts in the 1970s and fostering innovations as a professor at the University of California, Davis. This book provides insight into her studio practice, activism, and teaching philosophy, which champions sustainable art and design, original thinking, and the value of the unexpected.”
More information at Gyöngy Laky
(Photo by Zeke Runyon). NBO member Elizabeth Runyon has received the Louetta Heindl Kambic Award at Fiberart International 2022 for her work, “Dancing on Three Legs”. It seeks to exhibit the best of contemporary art and invites submissions that reflect a wide range of works related to the fiber medium. The exhibition is recognized around the world as a benchmark that documents trends and innovations in the field. The goal of the exhibition is to include innovative work rooted in traditional fiber materials, structure, processes and history, as well as art that explores unexpected relationships between fiber and other creative disciplines.
Congratulations to NBO member Lissa-Jane de Sailles for winning the runner up award in the 2022 “Paper on Skin Wearable Art Competition” held recently in Tasmania, Australia! (Photo by Grant Wells). Paper on Skin connects the papermaking heritage of the North-West coast of Tasmania to artists who embrace the challenge of designing a wearable garment made from at least 80% paper. Paper on Skin is presented in partnership with the Devonport City Council and is assisted by Arts Tasmania.
Jan Thomas’ work, VESPID VESSEL, has been juried into The Ohio Craft Museum Best of 2022 Show and received an Award of
Excellence. The show is on view at The Ohio Crafts Museum through June 26th and then will travel to Kent State University. Visit in person or view the exhibition online at Ohio Craft Museum
Above photo by Heather Heather Hochstetter
This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World showcases American craft like never before. The exhibition highlights the role that artists play in our world to spark essential conversations, stories of resilience, and methods of activism—showing us a more relational and empathetic world. It centers more expansive definitions and acknowledgments of often-overlooked histories and contributions of women, people of color, and other marginalized communities.
NBO member Polly Adams Sutton’s piece Facing the Unexpected is featured in the exhibition at the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. from May 13, 2022 to April 2, 2023. For more information, visit This Present Moment – Crafting a Better World
Shown above: Gallery. Photo by Polly Sutton.
Congratulations to NBO member Eric Taylor on the publication of his book, “A Basket Life”!
Eric shares story from making his first basket as a teenager, a lengthy apprenticeship, and then out on his own, developing his Cottage Style baskets. He also writes about how ash trees are being destroyed by the emerald ash borer and how it’s affected basketmakers around the country. Included in the the book is special section called “Hunt for the Last Black Ash” where Eric shares his journal pages that documenting what he is doing up in Wisconsin.
While there are no basket patterns or instructions on how to make a basket, it is autobiographical and talks about black ash, how it’s processed, and the work involved in making all the materials to make a basket from the tree. With 300 pages and hundreds of images, it is a book to enjoy! Available in hardcover now, and softcover soon. For more information about the book, you can visit and purchase an autographed copy (with free shipping) from Eric at Eric J. Taylor