Basket Case

The art of weaving


What: Naturally Speaking: A Panel of NW Artists Discuss Fine Art Basketry in the 21st Century

When: 2 pm Sat., Feb. 24

Where: Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St.

Cost: Included with admission


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Pardon the pun, but I was a real basket case when I arrived to view “Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America” on a recent Wednesday afternoon at Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building.

I was leaving for a two-week tropical vacation the following day, and had delayed my museum experience until the last possible moment due first to an ill-timed basement flooding the previous Sunday, and then by an editorial deadline. 

To say I was stressed out is putting it mildly. But as soon as I walked into the “Basketry in America” exhibit I could feel my blood pressure drop. It turns out it’s difficult to be on edge when you’re surrounded by varying incarnations of baskets that cross decades and encapsulate a country’s history of weaving.

The 93 objects spanning in time from the basket’s origins in Native American, immigrant and slave communities to its current cache as part of the contemporary fine art world weren’t just interesting in a historical context, they were also beautiful to behold.

Split into five sections—Cultural Origins, New Basketry, Living Traditions, Basket as Vessel, and Beyond the Basket—visitors can views everything from shallow coiled baskets made between 1890-1910 out of willow and devil’s claw; to a basket made out of organic and industrial materials in 2012 that is described as resembling a nuclear explosion (“Brendan Basket #309); to a plaited mulberry bark basket crafted in 1985; egg baskets; a sharply industrial basket constructed in memory of the artists’ father from materials collected while cleaning out his father’s garage; a bust portrait of Eve using using grapefruit and cantaloupe peel, yellow cedar bark, ostrich shell beads and waxed linen; and so much more.

A press release pertaining to the traveling exhibit on display through May 6 notes that some of the more contemporary artists are set on maintaining or reviving traditions practiced for centuries, while others combine age-old techniques with nontraditional materials in order to generate their versions of cultural commentary.

“Baskets convey meaning through the artists’ selection of materials; the techniques they use; and the colors, designs, patterns and textures they employ,” say co-curators Jo Stealey and Kristin Schwain. “This exhibition will feel both familiar and alien to visitors. Some objects are very utilitarian while others defy every idea you might have about what a basket could be.”

I didn’t have time to walk the block to Old City Hall to view “Hidden in the Bundle: A Look Inside the Whatcom Museum’s Basketry Collection,” but was told by a volunteer at the Lightcatcher’s front desk that it was worth a look-see, as it features plenty of pieces from the museum’s First Nations collection, representing different eras and cultures and highlighting the “unique and unexpected.”

I’ll be back from my trip just in time for a Sat., Feb. 24 panel discussion at the Old City Hall moderated by Northwest Designer Craftsmen and featuring internationally recognized Northwest fine art basketry artists such as Polly Adams Sutton, Jan Hopkins, Jill Nordfors Clark, Katherine Lewis, Lanny Bergner, Charissa Brock, Dorothy McGuinness, Nancy Loorem Adams, Danielle Bodine, Leon Russell, Judy Zugish, and Bill Roeder, who will respond to questions about their use of techniques, materials and influences.

If I make it, I’ll also peruse “Hidden in the Bundle” at my leisure—when I won’t be such a basket case.

West Coast
More Visual...
Island Insights
Separated From Normal

After viewing many of the paintings in “Separated From Normal,” I’m now convinced Trish Harding is is my artistic spirit animal. 

That’s because the exhibit currently on display at Peace Health St. Joseph Medical Center as part of the “Healing Through Art” series documents Harding’s…

more »
Skagit Abstraction
The shape of things

The Skagit Valley, with its wildlife and stunning vistas, is a refuge of traditional landscape and nature painting—sometimes to the neglect of modern trends in art.  For March, Smith & Vallee Gallery in Edison has put up a show of work entirely by local abstract artists. It’s beautiful,…

more »
Art in Nature
Securing Sculpture Woods

Whenever people ask what shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Lummi Island, I make sure and include lauded artist Ann Morris’ Sculpture Woods on the suggested itinerary.

Words like “magical,” “mystical” and “memorable” are apt to come up during attempts to describe what it’s like to come…

more »
Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

The Book of Moron

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Adventures and Brawls

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Hall

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

Native Plant Sale & Expo

9:00am|Whatcom Community College

Walk for Water

10:00am|Fairhaven Village Green

Rock & Gem Club Show

10:00am|Bloedel Donovan Community Center

March for Our Lives

10:00am|Bellingham City Hall

Whatcom County Democrats Convention

10:00am|Bellingham High School

Starting Your Vegetable Garden

10:00am|Blaine Library

Tax Help Available

12:30pm| First Congregational Church


1:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Spring Show Opening Reception

2:00pm|River Gallery

Native Plants & Birds

2:00pm|Ferndale Library

A Conversation with Alan Friedlob

3:00pm|Deming Library

The Passage Home to Meuse

4:00pm|Lynden Village Books

Contra Dance

7:00pm| Fairhaven Library

Shantala and Friends

7:00pm|Presence Studio

Memory's Blade

7:00pm|Village Books

Ballroom Dance

7:30pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

A Chorus Line
Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

Rock & Gem Club Show

10:00am|Bloedel Donovan Community Center

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Local Bird and Plant Walk

2:00pm|Chuckanut Center

An Afternoon with Jack Gunter

2:00pm| Maple Hall

Whatcom Symphony Orchestra

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

The Story of Big Ole

3:00pm|Everson Library

Art of Jazz

4:00pm|The Majestic


4:00pm|Village Books

Take Me to Church

8:00pm|Rumors Cabaret

Trove Web Best Of Skagit
Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

Bellingham at Home Informational Meeting

1:00pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Cuban Salsa

6:00pm|Bell Tower Studios

Monday Night Pizza

6:00pm|Ciao Thyme

Choosing a Diet for Optimal Health

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Open Mic Night

7:00pm|Village Books


8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

see our complete calendar »

Best Of Skagit Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Trove Web A Chorus Line Village Books Cabaret