DRAFT: Tradition and Innovation in Basketry 10

National Basketry Organization’s 10th Biennial Conference

Western Kentucky University – Bowling Green, Kentucky – July 16 – 20, 2019

2019 Conference Workshops

*Please note – Workshop photos are of the instructor’s individual work and represent techniques taught. They do not necessarily indicate what will be created in the workshop. Each workshop is 4 days in length and run concurrently. 

Hexagonal Weave – Paper Weavings

Jackie Abrams

Create baskets inspired by an ancient Asian technique, the openwork hexagonal weave.  Using contemporary materials, painted cotton papers that you will paint yourself in class, weave the first layer in the hexagonal weave, similar to the Shaker cheese baskets. Choosing whether to create shoulders on your form will be an option for the shape.  This framework will then be used to interlace second and third layers, or for layers of random weave and color. There will be time and encouragement in class to experiment with the possibilities of form, size, and color design.  (Sizes of finished work will vary.)

Skill level: Patience, and some basket experience helpful.

Materials fee: $65: Includes two sheets of cotton paper (enough for one basket in class and one at home), acrylic paints, varnish  See Jackie Abrams Required Tool/Supply List.

Instructor Bio: Jackie Abrams has been a basketmaker since 1975, when she first apprenticed to an 81-year-old traditional white ash basketmaker. Since 1990, she has been exploring the possibilities of contemporary basketry. She exhibits her work at galleries and museums and has been included in numerous books. Her work is in many collections, most recently acquired by the National Museums Scotland. Her community development work in Africa has inspired her work and her life. She teaches throughout the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

Website:  Jackie Abrams

Great South Central Kentucky Basket and History Tour

Scott Gilbert

Join Kentucky basket maker Scott Gilbert and discover the cultural history of South Central Kentucky with its rich basket making heritage.
Tour highlights include a visit to the Family Medical Clinic in Munfordville, Kentucky, where Dr. Jim Middleton has been collecting local Hart County Baskets for 50 years.

A visit to Mammoth Cave National Park visitor center will give participants an overview of the culture of the Mammoth Cave area. Basket making has been an important part of the material culture of this greater Hart County area since at least the middle of the 1800s.

A trip to nearby South Union Shaker Village will allow participants to go behind the scenes to inspect the unique Shaker Basket Collection. While at South Union, Scott will give a demonstration of traditional white oak basket making.

Family Medical Clinic, Munfordville, Kentucky

Another stop is The Downing Museum at Baker Arboretum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The museum manages the Jerry E. Baker Fine and Decorative Arts Collection, which includes a comprehensive collection of the creative works by Joseph Dudley Downing, a Kentucky-born artist.

Also on the week’s agenda is a visit to the Green River Museum, a history and folklife museum, and a studio tour with local potter Susanne Renfrow.

On campus the final day, the group will visit the Kentucky Museum to go behind-the-scenes to view its’ extensive quilt collection and to see demonstrations and performances by local artists and musicians.

Baskets, history, art and fine crafts –discover the richness of creativity in this area of Kentucky!

Destinations and timeline are subject to change. Tour includes daily lunch, transportation, and admission to the special planned events and tours.

Transportation Fee: $75.00.  Participants may also find purchasing opportunities at some venues.  See Scott Gilbert’s Tour Supply List.

Skill level required:  On the tour one can expect moderate walking on pavement and gravel paths on mostly flat terrain. There will be restrooms available during the day. Most sites will be handicap accessible but not all.

Guide Bio: In 1982, Scott Gilbert began making and selling white oak and honeysuckle baskets after he had studied with Ollie and Lestel Childress, generational white oak basketmakers from Park City, Kentucky. In 1984, he started teaching workshops, passing on the traditions he had learned from them.
Scott is webmaster, photographer, and handle maker for The Basket Maker’s Catalog in Scottsville, Kentucky. He makes white oak baskets for local and national competitions and is involved in Kentucky’s basket making tradition though his work with the Mammoth Cave Basket Makers Guild in Hart County. One of Scott’s white oak egg baskets was in an exhibition in 2013, A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets. This permanent collection is at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.   

Website:  Scott Gilbert

The Language of Baskets

Beth Hester

Are you a novice in basket making?  Do you want to expand your fiber arts knowledge to include basketry skills?  Are you curious about the how-to of basket weaving techniques?  If so, this workshop is for you!

Students will weave panels or ‘samplers’ (each approximately 12″ x 12″) using rattan(reed) materials in many sizes and shapes to practice and explore a variety of basketry techniques and concepts including: spoke construction, rib work, lashing, preparation of rims, twill weaves, chase weave, braid stitch, twining, 3-rod wale, and spiral weave. Smoked reed, dyed reed, sea grass, waxed linen and paper splint will be introduced and used as accents to the natural reed materials. Students can expect to create at least 6 sampler panels to use as future reference and add a wide variety of weaving techniques to their knowledge of basketry.   (Sizes of finished pieces will vary.)

Skill level: Beginner to Intermediate with a willingness to explore a variety of techniques.

Materials fee: $6.00 per panel (Example, if a student constructs 6 panels, the material fee is $36.00) See Beth Hester’s Required Tool/Supply List.

Instructor Bio: Beth Hester’s passion for weaving began by experimenting with simple coiled pieces over 40 years ago. Having learned from Ollie and Lestel Childress and Leona Waddell, she is honored to be a bearer of south central Kentucky’s white oak basket tradition.

A partner in The Basket Maker’s Catalog, Beth creates patterns, products and learning opportunities through teaching and hosting workshops with professional basket making instructors in Allen County.  She is grateful to be a past member of NBO’s board.

Beth works with the Kentucky Folklife Program and was curator, with Brent Bjorkman, of ‘Standing the Test of Time: Kentucky’s White Oak Basket Traditions’. This exhibit celebrated the past and present work of Kentucky basket makers.

Website Beth Hester

Collection – Transformation – Installation

Bryant Holsenbeck

This class is your chance to gather together all the bits and pieces of fabric, all of that yarn on the top shelf, that gathered roll of something organic for the basket you never made – all of that “great stuff” you have been saving for a rainy day.  Using coiling, wrapping, sewing and binding, students will learn to make animals and sculptural forms using found materials.  In Bryant’s creative process, she uses wire and recycled materials to make skeletons, bodies, fur and skin.  Students will learn the techniques she uses and be encouraged to develop their own as they create and build a variety of shapes, animals or otherwise, from recycled materials.

Skill level: All levels welcome

Materials Fee: $25 Includes a variety of recycled and found materials such as fabric scraps, yarn, string, buttons, beads, etc. and a roll of wire for the sculptural forms.  See Bryant’s extensive list of possible materials on Bryant Holsenbeck’s Required Tool/Supply List.

Instructor Bio: Bryant Holsenbeck is an environmental artist from Durham, NC, who makes books, birds, and sculptures from recycled materials. Beginning her career as a basket maker, she evolved into an environmental artist, making large-scale installations documenting the waste-stream of our society. She has shown her work throughout the United States and taught at Penland School of Crafts, Arrowmont, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and in Australia.  She has been the recipient of 2 North Carolina Arts Council Fellowships, and an NEA Arts and Learning Grant. She is featured in “Rooted, Revived Reinvented, Basketry in America” and is currently working on a book, “The Last Straw: A Reluctant Year Without Disposable Plastic”.

Website: Bryant Holsenbeck  

Japanese Basketry Technique

Flo Hoppe

“Japanese Basketry Techniques” will focus on a wide range of techniques that Japanese basket makers use in their unusual baskets.  Students will explore a variety of techniques and styles using round and flat reed, and cane.  Learning “rinko” and “asa no ha” (hemp blossom) bases, twill weaves, hex weave, diagonal plaiting, blossom knots and unique methods for finishing the tops of baskets, are all possibilities in this class.  There will be many examples to choose from and students may choose to explore one technique in depth or sample all of them.  So many possibilities!

(Sizes of finished work will vary.)

Skill level: All Levels.

Materials Fee: $38. Includes several sizes of round and flat oval reed and cane. See Flo Hoppe’s Required Tool/Supply List.

Instructor Bio: Flo Hoppe is a full-time studio artist, teacher, and author. She began her career in 1971 teaching herself basketmaking from a small booklet published in 1924. Her emphasis is on wicker basketry and Japanese basketry. She lived in Japan from 1968-1971, and on a return trip to Japan in 1994 studied with two master basketmakers. Her published books are titled “Wicker Basketry” and “Contemporary Wicker Basketry”. She also co-authored “Plaiting with Birch Bark” with Vladimir Yarish and Jim Widess. She teaches and exhibits worldwide, with teaching venues in England, Canada, Japan, Russia, and Australia. She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Basketry Organization in 2013

Website: Flo Hoppe

The Meeting of Materials and Techniques

Polly Jacobs Giacchina

This class will offer students time to explore fiber art and not be limited by a single project objective. The process will include using wire, fabric, a variety of flexible natural materials, paper, found objects, cane and wool roving. Participants will explore materials and techniques while forming units that can be combined into sculptural vessels or wall pieces. Techniques will include knotless netting, twining, coiling, crochet, simple felting, stitching and random weave. Each will be utilized as a possible way to form and expand a design idea. Layering, constructing voids, weaving textures and finding material relationships will be used in this class. Explore! Experiment!

(Sizes of finished work will vary).

Skill level: All levels welcome.

Materials Fee: $40. Includes flexible natural materials, wire, fabrics, paper, wool roving, twine, floss, found objects and cane, all in limited amounts. See Polly Jacobs Giacchina Tool/Supply List.

Instructor Bio: Polly Jacobs Giacchina has chosen fiber to create her organic sculptural art. With an introduction to two diverse views, she studied at San Diego State University with Department Chair Joan Austin, and independently explored natural materials with Misti Washington of Solana Beach CA. This started a unique lifestyle and career of discovery and creativity. She has exhibited in galleries and museums both nationally and internationally. Polly has been published in American Craft Magazine, Fiber Art Now, the National Basketry Organization Quarterly and several books on fiber art

Website: Polly Jacobs Giacchina

Tilting Form

Leon Niehues

Working with prepared white oak ribs, weavers, and rims, students will work on a square to round woven basket that has a tilted neck and forward lean. This class uses basic, simple weaving with an over-laid front and neck wrap. The connections in this white oak work are made with waxed linen thread and brass and stainless mini screws. Drilling and inserting screws, and stitching, students will learn how to shape a basket with a free-form style to create a more sculptural basket with personality. (Finished work will be approximately 6.5” square x 8” H, but sizes can vary.)

Skill Level: Intermediate (should know basic weaving skills).

Materials fee: $115. Includes all white oak prepared materials, brass and stainless screws, waxed linen. See Leon Niehues’ Required Tool/Supply List.

Instructor Bio: Leon Niehues has been making baskets, sculptural baskets, and now bentwood sculpture for 36 years. He is primarily self-taught in basketry and learned the Ozark splint knife method of preparing his materials from traditional basketmakers of Northwest Arkansas. He lives in Huntsville, Arkansas and harvests his materials from his 40-acre woods. Niehues uses a blend of traditional materials and techniques, innovative methods of construction, and new and unique materials (3-M emery cloth, paint and machine screws) to create his unique and contemporary white oak baskets. These processes and materials have led to work that is complex and contemporary, both old and new at the same time. His work has been included in many exhibitions and collections throughout his career, and he has been the recipient of a number of grants and fellowships.

Website: Leon Niehues

White Oak Basketry – From Tree to Basket

Mary Ann Smith and Bill Smith

Learn the traditional techniques for weaving a square to round white oak basket. This class will have “hands on” experience of the basics of splitting a fresh white oak tree, riving the splits and scraping them smooth enough to form the framework of the basket. There will be discussions on what to look for when harvesting a tree for oak basketry as well. Students will learn to measure and lay out a hand carved, notched handle and a set of rims for their basket. Using a drawhorse and drawknife in class along with scraping and carving knives, students will become familiar with oak basketmaking tools. Due to time constraints some of the materials in the basket will be prepared ahead by the instructors. (Finished size 9”L x 9”W x 7”H w/o handle, 12” H with handle.)

Skill Level: All skill levels.

Materials Fee: $150. Includes white oak tree, billets, some splits (weavers & lashing) to be prepared by instructors. See Mary Ann & Bill Smith’s Required Tool/Supply List.

Instructor Bios: Mary Ann Smith and Bill Smith have been weaving white oak baskets and preparing their weaving materials from tree to splits for well over 25 years. They spent many years apprenticing under master basketmaker, Mr. Jesse Thomason, a third generation basketmaker, as well as studying with other teachers. The Smiths were the resident basketmakers at Tannehill Historical State Park for over 15 years and continue to teach at John Campbell Folk School, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, and The Alabama Folk School. Bill and Mary Ann host an annual gathering of oak basketmakers at their home near Birmingham, Alabama with the hope of keeping interest in oak basketmaking alive.

Website: Mary Ann and Bill Smith

Twining: Form and Color

Tressa Sularz

Create sculptural forms using the ancient basketry technique, twining.   A larger size cotton cord in a neutral color will form the structure, while a variety of colors of cotton cord for weaving, will be available to choose from, allowing students to expand ideas into larger pieces, creating medium to large size vessels. This workshop will include a variety of new starts, techniques to create desired shapes, and non-traditional finishes. Students will be encouraged to create their own designs with the assistance of the instructor.  This challenge will be enjoyable and will be an opportunity to learn with an artist that creates these forms for a living with success.  (Sizes will vary with finished pieces.)

Skill Level: Intermediate and advanced experience in twining recommended, but instructor will accept beginners and show the basics of beginning twining.

 Materials Fee: $65.  This includes spools of cotton cord in a variety of colors to select from and spool holders. See Tressa Sularz’s Required Tool/Supply List.

Instructor Bio: Tressa Sularz is a fiber artist who works in her studio in Northeast Minneapolis. She wove her first basket in 1972 and for more than 40 years, she has earned a living as a teaching artist. Her work is contemporary and sculptural, exploring form as well as function. Tressa’s art has evolved from the purely functional to more sculptural as she creates sculptural forms utilizing ancient basketry techniques. Reflecting movement and transitions with curving forms, her work suggests ripples in water, shells, and dancers while using a full spectrum of vibrant colors.

Website: Tressa Sularz


Coiled Basketry: A Sculptural Approach

Elizabeth Whyte Schulz

Transform a simple coiled basket into a form of personal expression by embellishing the surface with elements of storytelling through color and design. Stitching a coiled basket with paper cord and raffia, participants will learn the methods of adhering handmade Japanese paper to the basket’s outer side. The paper skin fits tight to the basket coils and becomes a smooth surface ready for painting and marking. Elizabeth will present samples of designs in nature and designs of American Southwest baskets to stimulate ideas in the art of storytelling. She will share her studio experiences and how her travels have informed her work of the last twenty years. (Sizes of finished work will vary.)

Skill Level: All Levels.

Materials Fee: $40. Includes paper cord, raffia: both natural and hand dyed, Japanese paper, acrylic paints (many colors) pine needles, gel medium, and tools needed in class. See Elizabeth Whyte Schulze’s Required Tool/Supply List.

Instructor Bio: Elizabeth Whyte Schulz has traveled to experience different cultures that have defined her narrative for over twenty years. Trips to special places such as petroglyph sites in the American Southwest, Australia’s Aboriginal Art Centers, a rare visit to the original Lascaux Cave in France and recently, Peru’s Machu Picchu ruins, have influenced her work. “Each adventure is an opportunity to experience art and culture of diverse world communities and unique World Heritage sites. When I return to my studio with my sketchbook, travel notes and photographs, I begin to explore how to express my experiences through my art. My approach to working on the basket is to present a complex landscape of images that is visually challenging and personally satisfying.”

Website: Elizabeth Whyte Schulze

All for One

Gina Telcocci

The concept for this installation workshop centers around the creativity of individuals and the transformative possibilities of collaboration. In this workshop, participants will spend time working on individual woven, reed elements, which will then be brought together in the space to create a larger collaborative piece. Participants will be guided through a series of weaving and assemblage techniques, enabling beginners and more experienced weavers to experiment with forms, textures, and ideas. Students will learn basic weaving techniques such as stake & strand weaving, and twining with reed; and possibly some wood assembly, collage, and plastering. They will be encouraged to explore free-association in creating and elaborating on their visions. Experimentation is encouraged and personal sensibilities will be given free reign; improvisation and creative risk-taking will be celebrated. We will employ simple techniques in the installation of the work. The inclusion of found materials may also be introduced. Emphasis will be on sensitivity to the space, each other, and existing elements sharing that space, and on how the artwork can influence and enhance the viewers experience. (Size of finished work will vary.)

Skill Level: All Levels.

Materials Fee:  $65. Includes a selection of round reed, varnish, glues, clamps, miscellaneous hardware. See Gina Telcocci’s Required Tool/Supply List.

Instructor Bio: Gina Telcocci’s sculptures have been exhibited across the US and in Mexico and South Korea. Public commissions include Potrero Hill Library, San Francisco, California, Walnut Creek Library, and University of New Mexico/Los Alamos. Telcocci has created temporary installations for public and private sites in Oakland, California, Albuquerque, New Mexico,  Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico,  Pojoaque Pueblo and San Jose Canyon, New Mexico. She has received grants and awards from the Pollock Krasner Foundation, Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the City of Oakland. Her work is represented by GearBox Gallery, Oakland, California and Ernesto Mayans Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Website: Gina Telcocci

River Cane Double Weave

 Mary Thompson

In this class for intermediate to advanced level basketry weavers, students will learn to weave a traditional style river cane basket of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Building a double wall river cane basket, students will start with the inside bottom, weaving up, then turning back down to weave the outside and finish on the bottom. The class will also learn to prepare the material by practicing the techniques of busting and splitting river cane to make splits and discuss the dye process used in the making of double wall and single wall baskets and river cane mats. (Finished work approximately 4 ½” square x 3”-4” high

Skill Level: This is a challenging class for intermediate to advanced weavers. An ability to utilize knives and scissors is needed to make the river cane splits. Maximum of 6 students.

 Materials Fee: $175. Includes dyed and natural finished river cane splits and unprocessed river cane for learning the splitting process. See Mary Thompson’s Required Tool/Supply List.

Instructor Bio: A second-generation basket weaver and member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Mary Thompson expresses her respect for her ancestry and culture through her woven creations of old style baskets and reproductions.

 While she uses white Oak on occasion, she prefers using river cane for her single and double woven baskets and wall mats. 

Mary’s work has won numerous awards and is in public and private collections. She has taught basketry at the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Sequoyah Museum in Vonore, Tennessee, and at The Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Cherokee, North Carolina. 

More: Mary Thompson

Sweet Grass Basket

Lynette Youson

Learning to weave this beautiful Charleston sweetgrass basket will be a part of carrying on a traditional style of basket weaving/art form that comes from Sierra Leone in West Africa. This style of basketry has been handed down through the Gullah culture for centuries and Lynette is the 5th generation of her family to continue the tradition. While weaving with natural grown materials of sweet grass, Palmetto Palm, long pine needles and bulrush, students will learn the basic techniques of starting, stitching, and designing shapes while experiencing the use of traditional tools. A choice of the traditional Rice Fanner or the Bread Basket will be possible along with variations of these designs.  (Approximately 8” to 10” diameter x 2” high. Sizes can vary.)

Skill level:All levels welcome, though manual hand strength and dexterity is important.

Materials Fee: $175. Includes pine needles, sweetgrass, Palmetto palm and bulrush plus use of special tools. See Lynette Youson’s Required Tool/Supply List.

Instructor Bio: Originally from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Lynette Youson is a fifth-generation basketmaker. As a child, she learned her craft from her great-grandmother, Maggie Jefferson Williams, and has continued weaving for over 44 years. She and her mother, Marilyn W. Dingle, weave together and display their sweetgrass baskets in the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Pavilion at Memorial Waterfront Park in Mount Pleasant. As a past chairwomen for 9 years, and a present board member of the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival Association, she is passionate about preserving and teaching the cultural and historical importance of this ancient art form in the Lowcountry. One of her baskets, an extra-large Rice Fanner Basket, is part of the Smithsonian Collection in Washington, D.C

Information: Lynette Youson

Willow Bark Shoulder Bag

Jennifer Zurick

The inherent softness of native black willow bark and its lovely natural color make this material a nice option for functional hand and shoulder bags. Bark harvesting will be discussed and class participants will learn fiber preparation by removing the outer bark layer from portions of pre-cut strips prior to constructing a small purse. Students are encouraged to create freely, choosing from a selection of weaving techniques for the basket body and numerous twining techniques will be taught as border design options.  Optional leather strap cords will be on hand in addition to goat skin for a secure top enclosure choice. (Finished size will be approximately 6” L x 2.5” W x7” H, but can vary according to desired shape.)

Skill Level: All Levels.

Material Fee: $140 for bark. Additional $15 for optional leather strap and top enclosure material and waxed linen. See Jennifer Zurick’s Required Tool/Supply List.

Instructor Bio: Jennifer Zurick is a self-taught artist specializing in black willow bark which she has been harvesting and weaving into baskets since 1980. She is the recipient of a 2010 United States Artists Fellowship and two Kentucky Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships. Zurick has traveled to Ecuador as a Kentucky Arts Council cultural exchange artist and was recently honored with a 2017 Governor’s Award in the Arts. Her work is included in a number of museum collections, including the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and has won prizes and awards at national exhibitions and shows.

Website: Jennifer Zurick