A tisket, a tasket, A green and yellow basket . . . and red, blue and every other, not to mention fiber, imaginable.
Basketry is no longer a traditional craft done only by the Indians -- although they still do some of the finest work around. Basket making has become an art revived and practiced by a growing number of artisans. More and more people are collecting baskets.
As Dona Meilach and Dee Menagh wrote in their book "Basketry Today" (Crown Publishers, 1979). "Baskets have not fallen prey to mass-production methods as have most products in our culture . . . no one has yet devised a mechanical substitute for the nimble fingers that weave, coil, plaint and twine natural materials into the myriad utilitarian shapes devised for the necessities of living."
A wide variety of baskets in all shapes and dyes -- from imported commercial hampers to sculptural fiber pieces -- are available now in many Washington stores and galleries.
Greenwood Gallery. 2014 P St. NW, is holding an invitational basketry exhibition; now through the end of August with east coast artists Ken and Kathleen Dalton, Bob and Jeanne Daubert, Bryant Holsenbeck, kari Lonning, John McQueen and Jill Romanoke of Arlington, Va. Also included will be California artist Shereen LaPlantz. Japanese artist Hisako Sekijima and basketmakers rom the Craftsmen's Guild of Mississippi. h
The Mississippi basketmakers use more traditional materials for their baskets such as white oak, river cane and pinestraw (used in the Victorian days for ladies' fancywork).
The other artists use a wider range of materials in their contemporary pieces: split white oak, grapewines, rattan, birch bark, honeysuckle, willow walnut and shuro palm. Local artist Jill Romanoke uses all natural materials, often collecting various grasses, vines and twigs for her baskets.
The Greenwood baskets range in price rom $18 to $1250.
Full Circle, 317 Cameron St. in Alexandria, is showing American-made baskets as well as imported baskets now through the end of the month. Madeleine Flagler from North Carolina gathers her own material, grapevines. She makes traditional oval baskets with handles -- "very nice for picnics and day lilies," says gallery owner Marjorie Hemmendinger. Currently, Flagler is working on baskets for Christmas made of mysteria, grapevine and bittersweet. Her baskets range in price from $40 to $60.
Full Circle also carries a nu;mber of contemporary and antique baskets made by the natives of Sarawak, Borneo. These use a Greek key design and are made of flexible reeds. "The Sarawak craftsmen use the contemporary ones as backpacks today," says Hemmendinger. "We suggest they also be sued as shoulder bags by re-attaching the handles." Prices: $34 for the contemporary and $70 for the antiques.
Baskets made in Japan by unknown artists are also on exhibit at Full Circle. many of these are made of twisted bamboo with the edge of each reed bleached white. Others are a series of lacquered bamboo baskets with a reed base, tin liner and bent twigs for the handle, especially well-suited for ikebana, Japanese flower arranging. Price: $29-$80.
And from China, Full Circle carries a basket known to the Chinese as the "wedding basket." It is 25 inches in diameter, low and flat with a lid. "It makes a great sewing basket," says Hemmendinger. Price: $28.
Seraph Gallery, 1132 29th St. NW, will be showing baskets beginning in mid-August by Neil Prince and Fran Kraynek-Prince of Encinitas, Calif. Their baskets are made of sea grass, 2-foot long fruiting palms and Torrey pine needles -- a rare tree in the San Diego area with 12-inch long needles, according to Seraph's owner, Anne Smith. Because these materials can only be harvested seasonally, the artists mut know the growing cycles of the Torrey pine tree, the Date, King and Queen palms, as well as Pacific tidal grass. The artists use the coiling technique. Many of their fibers are tip-dyed and incorporate a blossom or leaf.
Presently, Serap is showing Rockville fiber artist, Carol Adcock, who makes abstract baskets out of man-made fibers. Although Adcock also uses the ociling technique, her baskeets differ greatly from the California baskets. While the California baskets have a textural softness within a strict and round form, Adcock's have bold and shaprly defined "ribs" building up to unusual symmetrical forms. Smith says these baskets are part of Adcock's "winged" series -- resembling wings getting ready for flight.
The Gadfly, 215 S. Union St. in Alexandria, is showing baskets by San Diego, Calif., artists Don Weeke, Misti Washington and Myrna Brunson. Like other Californian basket makers, they use fibers native to their area including Torrey pine needles, fronds from the King and Date palm trees, olive tree branches and watsonia (a cousin to the East coast gladiolus). Owner Janne Sellars adds that November is when Gadfly holds its major basketry exhibit.
Jackie Chalkley Gallery, 3301 New Mexico Ave. NW, is showing baskets by Vermont artist Jo Anne Kacillas. Kacillas uses reed, willows and dogwood, which she gathers herself in New England. Many of her pieces are lined with cattail leaves, black-eyed susan stems or grapevines. Among the items on display, an 8-inch wide reed onion basket with handle, $14; an 18-by-15-inch oval tray made of vines, leaves and grains, $50; and a 20-by-14-by-8-inch vine picnic basket with handle, $175.
chalkley is alos exhibiting some baskets by Kari Lonning (who is part of Greenwood Gallery's invitational show). Lonning uses rattan with vegetable dy in her pieces, which run from $125 to $650.
Lois Brant uses yarns, waxed linen and sometimes wood in her baskets, now on display at Gallery 324, 324 N. Fairfax St. in Alexandria. One, 14 inches in diameter, is a cross between a plate and traditional basket. Brant, one of the gallery's member artists, uses coil and twining techniques in her work.
A number of contemporary/sculptural baskets are on view through the summer at the Art in Fiber Gallery, Les Champs Shopping Mall, in the Watergate complex. "Right now, all of our baskets are made of materials other than reeds. We have linen ones, rayon ones and one is twined of linen and plastic," says Fiber Gallery artist B. J. Adams. Adams currently has a woven plastic piece using basketry techniques on display at the Textile Museum, 2320 S St. NW. Prices at the Fiber Gallery range from $15 to $1,000. Other exhibiting Fiber Gallery artists include Carol Adcock, Ruth Gowell and Ardyth Davis.
The African Museum Shop at the Smithsonian's Museum of African Art, 316-318 A St. NE, has one of the largest and most extraordinary collection of baskets in town. A set of 12 natural straw and leather trim baskets of varying sizes come from Upper Volta. They are called the "bamfora wedding baskets," according to Smithsonian crafts buyer Lisa Winderman, because the baskets are made for a young bride. "She takes the different sized baskets to the market to use as measuring cups when she buys her oats, vegetables etc." Used and eathered wedding baskets are $60 while the new ones are $50 -- for the set of 12.
The African Museum Shop also carries a tan and brown straw Ethiopian basket that is long and narrow. Wanderman says it's used to thrash just-harvested wheats and oats -- the heavy grains fall to the bottom. In the United States many people use them for French bread baskets. Price: $15.
Coiled and woven Botswana baskets, in all shapes and sizes, are also available. Known for their geometric design, the Botswana baskets range from $36 for an open bowl shape to $300 for more complex, larger baskets with lids.
Beige to dark brown baskets made by the Zulu people of South Africa run for $40-$300. Hampers and trays made by the Turkana people of Kenya cost $20-$50, depending on size. The Turkanas often use colored fibers.
The six-month-old Native American Shop in the Museum of Natural History, Constitution Avenue and 10th Street NW, also carries baskets. Split-stitched yucca and devilsclaw fiber woven items made by the Papago Indians of the Southwest, run from $30 to $100. Miniature horsehair baskets made by the Papagos are on sale for $25 and up. Four-inch diameter baskets in sets of three or four are made by the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico. Price: $9.99.
The Renwick Gallery Museum Shop, Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW, is showing Carol Eckert's miniature one-of-a-kind baskets with animal images. Prices range from $120 to $150.
The Indian Craft Shop at the Department of the Interior building, main floor, 1801 C St. NW, is exhibiting baskets made by various Indian tribes: fthe Cherokee of North Carolina, the Hopi and Papago of Arizona, the Navajo of Arizona and New Mexico, the Mohawk of New York, the Penobscot of Maine and some made by Eskimos out of grass. Other fibers used include yucca, willow, black ash and oak. Prices range from $3.50 to $500. Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30-4 p.m. Call 737-4381.
Appalachiana, 10400 Old Georgetown Rd. in Bethesda, carries baskets made by artists from Arkansas, Kentucky, Vermont and Tennessee. They're made of split oak, reed and honey suckle and range in price from $30 to $200.
Probably the largest commercial supplier of baskets in the area is Pier 1 Imports. Gino Sametini, manager for the 3307 M St. NW store, says their baskets range in price from 49 cents to $49.99. They carry baskets from around the world: the Philippines, China, India, Romania, Mexico, Hong Kong, Yugoslavia and Haiti. The baskets are made from willow, palm leaves, buri, rattan, straw and wicker. They range in size from storage and hamper baskets to pet and utility baskets.
Woodward & Lothrop carries varying sizes of wicker baskets, called "catch-alls," ranging in price from $3.99 to $24.99.
Bloomingdale's (Tysons Corner and White Flint) carries a wide range of baskets from the Philippines, Italy, West Germany, Poland and the U.S. Fibers include rattan, wood and wicker. Some come with leather handles. Prices range from $20 to $275.
The Hecht Co. carries baskets in its gift shop, Lifestyle and Living Quarters sections. The baskets are made of willow, wicker and rattan and range in price from 87 cents to $60. Some are made here, others are imported. r
Traveling south, basketmaking abounds at the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, N.C. Emma Taylor, a Cherokee Indian, makes baskets of rivercane, white oak and honeysuckle vines. She gathers her own materials. For more information, write to Cherokee Historical Association, P.O. Box 398, Cherokee, N.C. 28719 or call (704) 497-2111.
Several basketmaking classes are available in the area:
Glen Echo Park offers three courses with Jill Romanoke this fall: beginning basketry, intermediate/advanced basketry and a workshop on natural fibers for basketry. Call 492-6282 for details.
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission also has basketmaking and weaving classes. Call 699-2407 for their August schedule.