A musical muse inspires colorful baskets
I became a coiled basketmaker by accident. During my childhood I studied piano, embroidered and did other needlework. I had thought to become a music composer but discovered in college I had no talent for it. Music had always sparked images of beautiful dancing colors as I played. Contemplating this, I decided that I would use music as my muse and create embroidered tapestries. I spent several years experimenting with embroidery, needlepoint and other needle arts and had accumulated lots of needles, threads, fabrics etc. I wanted an attractive storage basket that would protect delicate threads while securing needles and small tools. I made one from macramé jute and knitting yarns using coiled basketry techniques. Once it was finished, my husband admired it and suggested I make another coiled basket. I had never thought of making coiled baskets as an artform but the light bulb went off and my career began.
Coiled basketry is an old and expressive fiber artform. It is a slow and contemplative process in which each piece takes weeks or months to complete. Each of my vessels is built row by row using a figure eight wrapping stitch. The figure eight stitch has two parts: the first wraps around the bare cording, the second wraps in the opposite direction around the row below it. Each row is thus covered twice and the bottom portion of the stitch is all that is visible in the finished piece. This creates a strong but flexible vessel with great design flexibility. I use jute or sisal cording as core materials which I wrap with cotton weaving yarns supplemented with variegated wool blend and other knitting yarns.
The designs for my vessels are influenced by jazz, classical and ambient music, by the light and open spaces of the Desert Southwest where I have lived all my life, and by the textures and colors of the beautiful yarns I use. Each design begins nebulously as I loosely sketch colors and shapes. The shape of the vessel forms in my mind as I am sketching and visualize the colors and shapes moving around its surface. For many years, I developed full scale cartoons of my pieces and faithfully followed them during the coiling process but I began to find this too rigid and confining. I have learned to trust myself and allow the surface design to evolve as I work from my loose sketches. There are days when I have to uncoil because an idea didn’t work out, but more times than not, the design that grows improvisationally is more exciting and interesting than what I had originally envisioned.
The aim of my work is to create objects which embody beauty and joy, grace and harmony. I strongly believe that the energies we put into the world affect it and those around us. The slow, meditative coiling process allows me to focus on this aim and evoke these positive feelings in the vessels I create.