Artist Statement and Links
With a basket career spanning three decades, Iím looking back at what I've accomplished and forward to what Iíll achieve.
My previous baskets were exciting, fun and creative within a disciplined tradition. Itís time to let go of that safe and comfortable work and delve into larger, less controlled shapes and incorporate more of the textile skills Iíve learned throughout my life. Itís an exciting time and my new creations are as bold and spirited as ever.
As an avid observer of nature and incessant collector of diverse material - from acorns to zippers - I continually gather interesting items to use on my baskets. In this new series, each one-of-a-kind piece is woven tightly and precisely, with added elements thoughtfully chosen to display order and harmony. For one, I may use rows of hooks and eyes to imply that the basketís construction is carefully held together, while on another, a zipper adds an illusion of function. For the finishing touch, spiraled, thread-wrapped rows define the basketís top. On some baskets Iíve left the last few rows twisting out into space, reaching, as a tendril, for a safehold.
My new sculptural work suggests a narrative; a view of human nature expressed through a plaited form. The story is the same - we have a tentative hold on life, wanting to appear all together but always aware thereís a thread ready to unravel.
I made my first basket in 1984 while living in York, Maine. As I started gathering information on this craft, I learned the history of the basketmakers in the Mount Agamenticus area of York, where an entire community once made their livelihood from basketmaking. They would work all winter producing baskets, then sell them from horse-drawn carts as far south as Boston. That same year while giving a basketmaking demonstration at the York Historical Society, I met Raymond Weare from Cape Neddick, Maine, the last to learn from the Agamenticus basketmakers. Its tradition would have been long forgotten if not for Raymond Weareís interest. He, in turn, was eager to share it with me. Raymond showed me how to select a proper ash tree, pound the growth rings off the tree, carve rims and handles with traditional tools, and weave a basket. The time involved in this process is considerable Ė preparing basket splints from one tree can easily take weeks. My first baskets were very functional, work type (bushel, market and pack baskets) similar to those made by the Agamenticus basketmakers.
Later, I refined my technique and wove very detailed, intricate baskets that were inspired by Native Americans of the Northeast and the Southwest. I used materials taken from the forest; black ash, pine needles, sweet grass and porcupine quills; incorporating strong visual design elements, like the contrast of black and white or spiky surface decorations, to give each basket a presence - animism.
I continue to sell my work at the finest craft shows and galleries across the country, recently winning awards at the American Craft Exposition in Evanston, Illinois and the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, DC. In 1998, I won the Director's Choice Award at the Crafts at the Castle show where Boston Museum of Fine Arts Director Malcolm Rogers purchased "Porcupine" basket for the Museum's collection and in 2007, a second piece, "Orange Pod" was purchased.
My studio is in Saxtons River, Vermont.
Our Northeast Indian beadwork
collection and my husband Gerry Biron's artwork has recently been exhibited at
four museums. Here's the link to Gerry's website with all the information and
CERF+ is a great organization that helps artists and craftspeople. Craft Emergency Relief Fund+ check it out!
National Basketry Organization
Surface Design Association
Play BOW WOW trivia and help provide free kibble to animal shelters across the country.
click on the link below!
Copyright: JoAnne Russo 2013