I am a retired registered nurse (bread and butter and character forming) but I’ve always been an artist in the background. I painted and printed for years until I found fiber and then finally baskets. My sister sat down one day and showed me what she learned about how to make a basket and I haven’t stopped since. I love working with natural fibers, and especially if they are sustainable and functional. Containers have also always interested me. Making these lovely, solid, natural, and useful baskets is so satisfying!
I harvest pine needles that have fallen locally and purchase some from the Deep South where the needles grow thick and long. After washing them to remove debris, I cook them in a water and glycerin solution, sometimes adding dye, for 3-4 hours. The glycerin is Kosher, food grade, and provides long lasting flexibility and gloss to the normally brittle needles. They are then rinsed, set out in a shady area to dry, and then bundled for later use.
Though I often start my baskets with water softened pine needles at the center, I more often lately use a variety of either found or handmade items as basket centers or bases for variety. I have used antique medallions, sliced black walnuts, and ceramics among others. Recently I began making ceramic centers myself, after initially purchasing them from artists on Etsy. I love the process of working with the clay and it's always fun to see how they turn out after firing. It is labor intensive and time consuming, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Each basket takes considerable time. A larger serving basket can take upwards of 35-40 or more hours. Smaller baskets can take as few as 8 hours, if you disregard preparation.
No two baskets are alike. I don't do custom orders. I prefer to let the materials guide me, even if I have started out with a general idea of what I want to make. I was originally inspired by the local Pomo and Miwok here in the Bay Area , California, noted for their exquisite designs and bead work. But my work continues to evolve the more baskets I make.
Handmade pine needle baskets are both gorgeous and functional, something I seek more as we start to move away from a disposable culture. They are sturdy, made of sustainable materials, and will eventually "return to the earth". I hope you gain as much pleasure from them as I do.