November 2014 Newsletter

Last year at this time we were in the middle of all the excitement of Katherine’s willow baskets at the Cole-Ware Exhibition at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC and her teaching at the National Basketry Organization Conference at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, TN. This year’s events are a little closer to home. Details below about two upcoming shows in our area. We are also happy to announce that Katherine will be back teaching at the Northwest Basket Weavers Guild Retreat in March.

Katherine Lewis willow basket Pi(e)Art’s Alive! La Conner 2014

October 31, November 1 and 2 at Maple Hall, 104 Commercial Street: Annual arts celebration in nearby La Conner, WA featuring work from 13 invitational artists and over 80 works in the open show where Katherine will have a basket called Pi(e) (image left). There will be an opening on the Friday evening from 5-9pm with live music, wine and food. There will also be artist demonstrations throughout the weekend. Katherine will be demonstrating her willow basketry from 1-3pm on Sunday. She will have several more willow baskets on display in the demo area. Admission is free.

Katherine Lewis Irish potato basketsRexville Grange Art Show

Opening Friday, November 14 6-8pm, Open Sat.-Sun. Nov, 15-16 & Nov. 22-23, 10-5. An arts and crafts show held twice each year in the Skagit Valley at the historic Rexville Grange (19299 Rexville Grange Road). Katherine will have a large selection of her baskets available. There will be paintings, pottery, fiber arts, jewelry, photography and more by an impressive list of local artists. The opening evening on November 14 will feature live Celtic music by Campbell Road as well as refreshments and a chance to mingle with artists and friends. If you want a chance to chat with Katherine other than the opening, she is scheduled to work all day on Saturday Nov. 22.

Katherine Lewis willow class basketsNorthwest Basket Weavers Guild Spring Retreat 2015

March 11-15, 2015, Pilgrim Firs Conference Center, Kitsap Peninsula: Katherine will be teaching two willow basket classes at this year’s retreat. One is a 14 hour class making Katherine’s ‘potluck’ basket and the other is a 19 hour class making her willow ‘purse’. If you have been wanting to take classes from her, this will be a great opportunity. Class size is limited to 10 people and will probably fill so you are advised to check the website soon for the class descriptions and brochure (probably early November). You need to be a member of the Guild, but you can join on your registration form for the retreat. It’s a fun event and organization.

National Basketry Organization brochureNational Basketry Organization

Earlier this year Katherine joined the Board of the NBO. She has been a member for several years and was invited to teach at the conference last year. The conference next year will be in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minnesota July 14-19, 2015. The Board has been working hard to make it another great event. Katherine has been working on getting the various basketry guilds across the country more involved with the organization. She hopes many of you will consider joining or supporting the NBO.

Dunbar Gardens willow cuttings
Willow Cuttings

Time to start thinking about willow cuttings. Steve takes orders starting January 1 through March 31. We ship orders through the end of May according to your planting needs. We will be updating the website soon with 2015 availability and prices. If you ordered in previous years, we love to hear feedback on how the varieties are growing in your area. Last year alone we shipped out some 8000 cuttings so we hope there will be a lot of willow baskets getting woven in the near future.

Katherine Lewis willow baskets for sale


A big thanks to everyone who has purchased Katherine’s baskets! Just a reminder to order early if you want something before the end of the year!

Facebook: Dunbar Gardens has a Facebook page. We post photos of Katherine’s latest baskets, commissions, and photos of the farm.

Pinterest: Dunbar Gardens now has a Pinterest page where we have boards featuring Katherine’s baskets, basketry willow, other willow baskets and makers, as well as some bird photos.

For more information about classes, baskets, willow growing, or our farmstand please visit our website. Thanks!

Katherine & Steve


Schack 19th Juried Art Show

Pi(e) willow basket by Katherine Lewis

Katherine was honored to have three of her baskets chosen for the 19th Juried Art Show at the Schack Art Center in Everett, WA. The show opened on June 19 and will end August 2. It is a biennial exhibit of Northwest artists in a wide variety of mediums. This year’s jurors were Jan Hopkins, Ken Rowe and Joan Pinney. You can view the complete list of artists and images of the work on the Schack website.

There are two basket makers in the show with Dorothy McGuinness in addition to Katherine. One of Dorothy’s pieces “Threshold” was awarded Second Place in 3D works. Katherine received an Honorable Mention for her basket “Pi(e)” seen in the image above. Of course, anyone involved with basketry or fiber arts will recognize the name of juror Jan Hopkins. It definitely adds to the honor of having work chosen for the show.

willow basket tray by Katherine Lewis

Katherine appreciates the opportunity to display her baskets in an art venue like the Schack. Since her work emphasizes the functional element, it is not often she gets her work juried into exhibits.

Katherine works almost exclusively with willow, but occasionally she experiments with other materials. The third basket in the show titled “Slingshot” has rubber strips used in the side weavers along with the willow base, stakes, border and handle. She uses a zig zag weave with the strips doubled up to get a different look inside and out.

Slingshot - willow and rubber basket by Katherine Lewis

We hope people have a chance to see the exhibit before it closes. Thanks again to the jurors, gallery director Carrie Collver and all the staff at the Schack.


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.


Renwick Gallery Shutdown

Renwick Gallery opening reception invitation

Renwick Gallery opening reception invitation

We received our invitation to the opening reception of “A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery. We were excited to go and made our reservations.  As we posted earlier Katherine Lewis had several baskets in this prestigious exhibition. The week before the opening someone asked if the possible federal government shutdown was going to effect our plans. “They are not going to shut the Smithsonian museums!” The following Tuesday morning we found out that Congress considered museums non-essential services and they did indeed shut them down.

willow basket maker at the White House

willow basket maker at the White House

We had non-refundable reservations so we went hoping that an agreement would be reached quickly and we could still attend the exhibit. We arrived in Washington, DC on Thursday, October 3 as planned which was the same day as the Capital was locked down as a result of an incident that involved a woman being killed there by police. We walked down to the White House unaware of the event and were surprised at the heavily armed presence of law enforcement. Katherine decided to protest in front of the White House for more basketry anyway.

Lewis and Lospalluto at the Renwick Gallery

Lewis and Lospalluto at the Renwick Gallery

The Renwick Gallery is at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and 17th St. NW just down the block from the White House. Some of the basketmakers had  arranged to meet up in front of the Renwick Gallery at the scheduled time of the opening despite the shutdown. Because of the earlier incident there was actually police tape preventing us from even getting to the front door of the Renwick. It was fun anyway to meet some of the basketmakers and their families and friends who showed up to celebrate. People shared stories and tips on what they were up to on their visits to our nation’s slightly dysfunctional capital.

Vice-President in motorcade

Vice-President Biden leaving the White House

While we were standing near the Renwick, a large motorcade assembled and left the White House grounds. The police blocked traffic in front of the Renwick and the motorcade drove out and we could see Vice-President Joe Biden waving from the back of one of the limousines. Unfortunately he didn’t stop to let us in to see the show though the police then took down the yellow barrier tape.

basketmakers at the Renwick Gallery

(l-r) Bill Roeder, Joanna Schanz, Jo Campbell-Amsler, Billy Ray Sims, Scott Gilbert, Jackie Abrams, Katherine Lewis

On Tuesday when we found out the Smithsonian would be closed due to the federal government shutdown, we had sent emails to our congressional representatives about Katherine’s story. On Thursday after our arrival in Washington, DC we were pleasantly surprised to get a call from our Washington 2nd District Representative Rick Larsen’s office. Rep. Larsen’s staff arranged for us to visit his office in the Rayburn Building. He and his staff were interested in our unique story and sympathetic to our disappointment in not getting in to see the exhibition. Steve took the photo of Katherine and Rep. Larsen while his staff member Bryan Thomas was taking a photo as well. They were laughing because Bryan was saying to make sure that Katherine’s basket purse was in the photo.

Representative Rick Larsen and Katherine Lewis

Representative Rick Larsen and Katherine Lewis

Bryan Thomas contacted our local newspaper the Skagit Valley Herald with Katherine’s unique story and photo. She was later reached on the phone by the Herald reporter for an interview while we were on our way to Tennessee where Katherine was going to be teaching. Ironically Katherine’s story wound up on the front page of the Herald because of the shutdown even though it hadn’t been of interest to any northwest art media before the trip. We liked Rep. Larsen’s quote from the article: “She isn’t in the basket-weaving business to have her stuff in the Renwick Gallery. She’s an artisan, she loves what she’s doing and she’s going to continue doing it.”

Elizabeth Broun-Katherine Lewis-Steve Cole

Elizabeth Broun, Katherine Lewis, Steve Cole

Although we were unable to see the exhibition, we did have the opportunity to finally meet the basket collectors, Renwick curators and staff, and more of the basket makers represented in the collection at a reception hosted by Steve Cole and Martha Ware. All the basket makers were presented with the exhibtion catalog by Elizabeth Broun, Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery.

Katherine Lewis willow basket on the Smithsonian's website

Katherine Lewis willow basket on the Smithsonian’s website

Of course, the federal government shutdown ended the next week and the exhibtion opened without the fanfare, and will stay open until December 8. One nice consolation was a set of photos of the exhibition that the Smithsonian posted to Flickr. It was also pretty cool to see one of Katherine’s baskets used to promote the exhibition on the Smithsonian’s website.

Having your work represented in an exhibition at the Smithsonian will probably only happen once, so Katherine is headed back to the other Washington to see the exhibition on November 8. After all persistance is necessary if you are a traditional craft artisan.