We recently made a slideshow of Katherine weaving a willow log basket. She was commissioned to make four of these for the historic artisans of Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, MA. They are using them as general work baskets so Katherine added a ‘foot’ onto the baskets for better wear. Steve added a little music so it might be enjoyable even if you’re not a basket geek.
Katherine made this pair of bicycle panniers last November. They were a custom order for Ben Ferencz at Freeman Transport, who hand build bikes in Missoula, Montana. Ben wanted a pair of willow baskets for a tandem bike.
Ben sent us a Freeman rack so that Katherine could figure out attachment using willow and leather straps.
They also wanted these to be picnic baskets, so Katherine added a removable cutting board on the inside of one lid. The lids are held on by a leather strap and buckle on each end.
Here’s what the basket panniers looked like on an old bike we have with the Freeman rack tied on. They looked great even on this old beater, but it was going to be a pleasure to see them on a hand built tandem.
We knew the baskets were going to be mounted on a special tandem that Freeman was building, but we didn’t know who the actual customer was. Ben had briefly mentioned the name Mistress. We had no idea that Mistress was a “creative agency” in Venice, CA. It was kind of amusing to come across this video and see Katherine’s baskets riding around the streets of LA.
The next short video shows the tandem bicycle being made. There are some good shots of the baskets again near the end. The tandem bike is apparently now for sale as The Mistress.
Some of the willow baskets that Katherine Lewis handcrafted this past year. Many of these baskets were commissioned work. Enjoy the slideshow.
“I found your website some time ago and have heretofore exercised extreme restraint by not buying one of your baskets. But I’ve decided that life would be happier with one of the baskets. I am looking for a basket to hold a zillion pairs of silly socks which keep me entertained throughout the year. I’m wondering whether one of your oval laundry baskets with inset handles could be made with a separate lid.”, Alice e-mailed to Katherine.
“Yes, I was thinking of a removable lid rather than a hinged one. I certainly don’t mind having a level top and having straight-ish sides are fine as well.”
“Even though I have promised myself that I will not buy any more socks (perhaps I’m a bit like Imelda Marcos – except with socks instead of shoes), would it be possible to make the height closer to your bassinette (12”) rather than my pile of socks (10”)?”
“Finally – the socks are going to be in a single location. And I’m going to have a wonderful basket!”
“I have your sock basket done, attached are a couple photos. I think it looks really great! Katherine”
“We found your website while looking for some willow baskets for a display. We were hoping that you might be interested in bidding on our project.Please let us know as promptly as possible if you are interested” read the email that we received on a Friday afternoon. On Monday Katherine sent back a list of questions and arranged to speak by telephone that afternoon. That’s when the project coordinator told Katherine, “My boss said, ‘This is just a mom and pop business. They’re not going to get back to you.’” But Ann had responded, “Sure they will, this is how they make their living.” Mom & Pop on the internet selling their wares and services have to be ready to respond to potential jobs, especially in the current economy.
Spaeth Designs in New York City has built a reputation on window displays. They are known for the animatronic windows that they produce for stores like Saks Fifth Ave and NBC in NYC and Marshall Fields in Chicago. They also do special events and promotions. The job they contacted Katherine about is one involving some hot air balloons. They needed a basketmaker to make replicas of four balloon baskets of different sizes. They had some drawings done but not really the details.
On Tuesday, Katherine soaked up some willow and went about weaving a sample basket. Later in the day, she told me that we needed to get some photos done and emailed by the end of the day. The Spaeth crew was meeting with their client the next morning and needed photos of the sample and a price quote before the meeting. So I got out the camera and opened up the Photoshop while Katherine worked the bid. Wednesday afternoon we heard the boss was surprised we managed to get the sample photos sent, but also that the project is over budget. So they aren’t sure what is going to be kept in the final display. “We’ll let you know by the middle of next week at the latest.” Ironically, we are still waiting for a reply at week’s end. Must be their client’s fault. You know those big retailers never get back to you on time.
Post script: To save cost they decided to make solid boxes with “a covering of some sort”. They did say, “We want to thank you for being right and ready to hop on the project at a moments notice…” Maybe a future project will come our way.
“Well I wished you could have been here when I opened up my present after he had opened mine. We laughed and laughed. Thanks for making our presents this year. We will be so coordinated and organized!” Katherine and I had already had a good laugh about this couple that had each arranged a basket to be made for a Christmas gift. She had come by several weeks before the holidays to ask Katherine to weave a small square basket for her husband. A basket for him to toss his keys, wallet, and stuff. She picked her gift up three weeks before Christmas.
Then on Dec. 18 her husband stopped by looking for a basket. He wanted to get her a rectangular basket for use in the kitchen to contain oil, vinegar and spice bottles. The red and green willow combination was appealing to both of them as it turned out. Lucky for him, and her, Katherine had willow ready to weave that weekend and she made his gift.
For the kitchen basket, Katherine used wood slats in the base to get a flat bottom. She covered them with a greenish willow bark to match the base weavers, as you can see in the photo above.
They were both shopping for a locally made, handcrafted gift; they just never guessed they would pick the same place. Here’s a big thank you to everyone that bought a handcrafted gift this year.
I photographed Katherine weaving a willow garden basket in October, 2007. Recently I picked out 15 of them for a set that I posted to our Flick.com account. The photos were taken in one of our barns on the farm.You can see some of the dried basketry willow from our farm behind Katherine. There is also a selection of finished baskets. The amazing detail is that our cat Spike only appears in one photo!
To be clear, Katherine doesn’t normally work here. These photos were taken for a magazine article that appeared in the April 2008 issue of Romantic Homes. The issue had a focus on “ways to shop green” and “French style”. Katherine was the featured artisan in an article entitled “A Basket Case”. The editor asked us to provide some photos of Katherine at work and on our farm. They did a nice job of taking what we sent and cropping it for a nice mix of images.
Jacqueline deMontravel wrote in the article, “Shopping with a basket is as classic and stylish as a designer bag that warrants a waiting list. As the trend catches on, such style will do more than liven up grocery aisles, it will benefit the world….Katherine says”It’s a purchase for something local, making an investment for a well-made item.”" Well in the photos we took she is weaving a garden basket, but maybe you’ll get the idea!
Katherine recently made some baskets for beer and wine bottles. She was contacted by someone involved with an east coast beer distributor looking for a traditional wicker basket for pouring lambic beers. He sent along a couple of photos that were only a little helpful. But the basket did seem very similar to wine bottle baskets Katherine had seen in France, and fortunately several years ago a friend had gifted her one of these baskets made in France at the Cooperative de Vannerie in Villaines-les-Rocher.
She used this basket as the model for her baskets. She decided to weave two versions – one with a French randed side weave (photo above) and the other with a slewed side weave (photo below).
The baskets came out quite nice, and the beer guy thought they looked great. But those Belgian ales aren’t cheap either and that’s where they’re putting their money for now.
Here is a recent one made for a birthday present.
We have a nice selection of Katherine’s willow baskets displayed in our barn at Dunbar Gardens right now. If you’re in the area, come by for a look. If not, enjoy the photo! If you’re curious about buying a basket, you can always check our website for the baskets we have currently made for sale here. Baskets can always be made to order. Check out this page on our website for more details. If you want to know where we are, here is a map.
Every few months Katherine gets a request for a bassinette. Usually the parents make the request during the pregnancy, so that the basket is there when needed. This one was made at the last minute, but came out quite lovely. This bassinette was ordered by a good friend as a thank you gift. It was ordered for a couple who had a very small baby girl born a little early. The friend figured that the baby would be able to use the basket for quite a few months so she went ahead and asked Katherine to make it. It was her thanks to the family for their helping hand to her own son who had moved near them for work. For a look at another bassinette see this earlier blog post: Bassinette.