Leeway Award for Excellence
Discipline: Crafts and Textiles
The heart of my work is defiance of the notion that a basket is a vessel defined by its boundaries. Cutting a segment of dried kettle gourd for the base of each piece permits me to begin with a uniquely shaped, irregular form upon which to coil. This form, different each time, helps to inspire the direction my coiling will take. The coiling itself is accomplished with sweet grass, hand-gathered in Maine and considered sacred to the Native Americans who harvest it. This grass, subtly colored and wonderfully fragrant, has been used for centuries in Native American basketry and is still used daily in rituals where it is bundled with sage and cedar leaves and smoldered in a ceremonial "cleansing" of the spirit.
Just as, through these rituals, the spirit is metaphorically renewed and set free from the vessel, the body, so I work to free the basket from its traditional constraints. It is as if my work is to permit each basket to speak with its own voice, to tell me how to go somewhere new, somewhere challenging, and how to find my way home again.
1998, sweet grass, gourd & waxed Irish linen, 12"x14"x16"
Photo: David Coulter