Anacortes Best of the Fest 2014

Katherine Lewis baskets, Anacortes Best of the Fest, April 2014

Katherine Lewis willow baskets, Anacortes Best of the Fest April 4-12, 2014

The Anacortes Arts Festival introduces the new “Best of the Fest” art exhibition April 4-12, 2014. The new show is an official event of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, and features artwork from 25 of the artists that participate in the annual Anacortes Arts Festival (August 1-3, 2014). Katherine has participated in the ‘Experience Art’ area as well as the ‘Arts at the Port’ exhibitions at the festival several years. Thanks to Fine Art Coordinator Rita James for inviting Katherine to submit works to be juried for the exhibition. She will have four baskets on display. It is an outstanding group of artists and Katherine is looking forward to having her baskets along side work by friends and fellow artists like Ann Chadwick ReidKathleen Faulkner and Lanny Bergner.

Katherine Lewis basket woven from willow and rubber

Katherine Lewis basket woven from willow and rubber

The show will open on Friday April 4 from 5-9 pm as part of the Anacortes First Friday Art Walk. The exhibition will be open daily 11am – 4pm from April 5 through April 12 at The Depot Arts Center at 611 R Avenue in Anacortes, Washington.


Basket loan to Smithsonian

hands on gallery at the Renwick

hands on gallery at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

When Nicholas Bell asked Katherine to donate the use of one of her willow baskets for a hands on gallery at the exhibition “A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets”, she was happy to participate. Katherine took the photo above when she visited the museum back in November, 2013, and you can see Katherine’s basket on the far right. It’s a well made panier à jour with slat willow base, one of Katherine’s ‘signature’ baskets. It was one of eight baskets displayed in this area where museum visitors had the opportunity to pick up the baskets and examine them.

Since the public would be handling the basket, the Renwick Gallery would not insure its value or final condition. It was an understandable and reasonable risk to take for the opportunity to present Katherine’s work to the many visitors. The Smithsonian did agree to return the basket after the exhibition closed on December 8, 2013.

A Measure of the Earth hands on basket

A Measure of the Earth hands on basket

When the exhibition closed we were notified that the basket loan would be returned later that week. December went by so we contacted the Renwick Gallery in early January and were told that we would receive it by the end of the month. In February we contacted the Art Registrar who handles all the shipments of artwork for the Smithsonian. After a couple of emails they replied that the basket was still in the process of being returned. Now it is March, three months after the exhibition closed, and we are still waiting. We already had to deal with a government shutdown that delayed the opening of the exhibition so we figure another delay is just the way things are done in the “other Washington”. “Thank you for your patience.”

P.S.Katherine Lewis Renwick Gallery touch basket The basket was returned March 6 three days after making this post. The basket was double boxed with loads of padding. By the date of 12/11/13 marked on the inner box it is clear that the Renwick Gallery staff did a timely job the week after the exhibit closed. It’s also amazing how little wear the basket shows after spending a couple of months in the gallery for many people to touch it. I thought I heard a ‘sigh’ when I opened the box, like the basket was happy to see the light after spending three months boxed up in a Smithsonian warehouse

Willow cuttings for sale in the USA

willow cuttings for sale

Dunbar Gardens willow cuttings for sale

Searching for willow cuttings in the United States? Dunbar Gardens has a nice selection of willow cuttings for sale that can be used for basketry, living willow structures, hedgerows and other garden use. You can find the list, prices and details on our website page: willow cuttings. Our interest in willows started with Katherine Lewis’ basket making. She wanted to work with a material that we could grow on our farm. Since the early 1990′s we have sourced willows from growers in the UK and the US as well as friends and fellow basket makers. Along the way we have collected varieties that both grow and weave well.

harvested willow bundles at Dunbar GardensBecause we are growing willows for Katherine’s basket weaving we have an ample supply of fresh willow rods to use for making cuttings. Our goal is to provide good sized cuttings at a reasonable price. There are a huge number of willows available and we don’t try to fulfill every gardener’s needs. Although the number of sources in the United States are limited, there are nurseries on-line to order from and get information. Here are some other sources to compare varieties and prices with what we have for sale.

Vermont Willow Nursery is located in northern Vermont. Michael Dodge is a trained horticulturist that has become obsessed with willows in his “retirement”. He and his wife offer a very large selection of willows which they sell as cuttings and live rods. If you are looking for ornamental varieties their website is a great place to start. They are very conscientious about accurate descriptions and taxonomy.

Willowglen Nursery has been growing willows since 1988. They sell willows, baskets and offer a variety of classes. They sell a limited selection of cuttings as well as live and dried rods. There are not many images on their website but they are easy to correspond with and knowledgeable.

Double A Willow is the licensed commercial nursery to grow and distribute patented varieties developed by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Most of these willows were developed for large scale biofuels projects. Since they have bred these willows, you won’t see any of the common heirloom varieties that most of us are growing; though they do sell cuttings for other uses like living willows, privacy fencing and basketry. They don’t post any prices so it is difficult to assess their products.

Big Rock Trees is located in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. They have a fairly large selection of willows and hybrid poplars. Their website is easy to navigate and has some good photos of the varieties.

Gardeners in the US can also consider buying cuttings from Canada. Shipping across the border requires a phytosanitary certificate which the nursery will provide but charge you for it. Nurseries in Canada are obviously interested in selling to the large number of potential US customers. There are a couple that are worth checking out.

Lakeshore Willows is located in Wainfleet, Ontario. They grow about 30 varieties of willow which they offer as cuttings, living rods, and dried willow for basketry. Lene Rasmussen is a native of Denmark and she has been inspired by many of the willow growers and basket makers in Denmark. Lene is another grower that brings the experience of basketry and working with willows to her business. Great website with lots of photos and information. Check out her list of classes as well.

Blue Stem Nursery is located in Christina Lake, British Columbia. They are a mail order nursery of grasses and willows. Although their expertise is in grasses, their website is very informative about growing and using willows with good images and descriptions of the varieties they offer. They sell both cuttings and full size live rods.

Of course we hope you will return and buy willow cuttings from Dunbar Gardens. If you do buy from one of these other mail order willow nurseries, let them know how you found them!

Dunbar Gardens willow cuttings selection

willow cuttings approved by Spike

Visit to the Cole-Ware Collection

Katherine Lewis at the open Renwick Gallery

Katherine Lewis at the open Renwick Gallery

Katherine traveled to the other Washington to visit “A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets” at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The first time we ran into the federal government shutdown. This time around the doors were open for visitors.

She was able to tour the exhibition with Steve Cole who collected all the baskets. Hearing Steve’s stories about finding the basketmakers and collecting the baskets was a real treat. They also visited with exhibition curator Nicholas Bell, and all three posed for a photo next to Katherine’s Irish Potato Basket which invites visitors in to view the baskets.

Steve Cole, Katherine Lewis, Nicholas Bell at Renwick Gallery

collector Steve Cole, basketmaker Katherine Lewis, curator Nicholas Bell at Renwick Gallery next to a Lewis willow basket.

Hands-on exhibit at the Renwick Gallery

Hands-on exhibit at the Renwick Gallery

Photos weren’t allowed in the exhibition but Katherine did take a photo of the “Hands-on gallery” from the adjacent museum gift store. You can see Katherine’s fitched willow market basket on the right end of the table. The baskets in the hands-on area are tethered to the tables with a cord, and visitors are encouraged to pick up the baskets to feel and view them in detail. Another nice surprise was seeing one of Steve’s photos of the Dunbar Gardens basket willows used in this area (on the far left in the photo).

Katherine has six willow baskets in the exhibition in addition to the “hands-on gallery” basket. Fortunately the Smithsonian American Art Museum posted a set of photos of the exhibition to their Flickr photo gallery. In this photo courtesy of the Smithsonian you can see four of Katherine’s baskets in a display with other willow baskets.

A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets

Katherine’s baskets are on the left: Red & White Panier à Jour, Zig Zag Shopper, Willow Bark Tray, and Bicycle Handlebar Basket. You can view our photos of all these baskets in a previous post. Another one of Katherine’s baskets is a willow rope coil weave basket that was given a featured position in the gallery as you can see in this photo courtesy of the Smithsonian. The Rope Coil is at the perfect height for viewing both the exterior and interior details. (However we were a little perplexed at the chosen background of a hay field, and wondered why they didn’t use one of the Dunbar Gardens willow photos used in the exhibition catalog to represent the landscape from which the basket is created.)

A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets

Katherine had a wonderful time in Washington, DC. Although she did visit other museums, she visited the Renwick all three days she was there. She saw Steve Cole there all three days as well; proof that he spends a lot of time sharing stories with not only the basketmakers but other visitors as well. Steve was kind enough to spend a little more time with Katherine and her friend and basket buddy Sharle who flew out from Washington for the weekend.

Renwick Gallery signKatherine is honored to have her work included in this wonderful display of American basketry. There are over 100 baskets by 63 basketmakers working with a variety of materials. If you are interested in baskets, the exhibition is definitely worth a visit. You can find more information and links at the Smithsonian website. It runs through December 8, 2013.