Produced in conjunction with the exhibition “A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets” at the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum.
“A Measure of the Earth” celebrates the generous gift of seventy-nine baskets to the Smithsonian American Art Museum by the noted collectors Steven R. Cole and Martha G. Ware, and the promised gift of twenty more.
The 105 baskets on display were made between 1983 and 2011 and demonstrate the endurance of indigenous, African, and European basket weaving traditions in the United States. The Cole-Ware collection presents an encyclopedic view of this medium, and is notable for the care with which samples were collected. The sixty-three weavers represented craft their baskets almost entirely from un-dyed native materials—grasses, trees, vines, and bark—that they have gathered. The forms—from baskets for eggs, harvest, and market to those for sewing, laundry, and fishing creels—reveal the central role basketry has played in the everyday life of Americans.