Mom and Pop business

ballon basket sample

“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.

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His and her gifted baskets

willow basket for keys and wallet

his basket

“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.

willow kitchen basket

her basket

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.

willow kitchen basket

kitchen willow basket

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.

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weaving a willow garden basket

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!

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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!

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bottle pouring basket

Belgian ale basket

bottle basket with French randed weave

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.

small wine bottle basket

French small bottle basket

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).

wine bottle basket

bottle basket with slewed side weave

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.

lambic beer pouring basket

P.S.: We are no longer making the bottle baskets. You can find inexpensive, made in China lambic baskets here: Handwerk baskets They look poorly made but might work for you at the price offered.

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