Sunday, April 27, 2014

John C. Campbell Folk School - JoAnn Kelly Catsos - 2014

Well another week at the John C. Campbell Folk School has come and gone. Fortunately the memories and the baskets that I wove while I was there remain. Like last year, this class with JoAnn Kelly Catsos, was another exploration in miniature basket weaving. Now one thing you need to understand there is a difference between weaving small baskets and weaving miniatures. While the overall size of the basket can be the same the proportions of the materials is completely different.

The baskets I was making were true scaled down versions of their larger counter parts. The two main baskets I wanted to weave were both woven on an approximately 3"x4" rectangular mold. I had made larger versions of both basket, a Shaker tatting basket and a Shaker wood chip basket, with JoAnn a few years earlier. Since the mold I was making was about 40% smaller than the original mold I used I simply used pencil, paper and a calculator to determine the size the uprights and weavers needed to be. I did the same for the rims, handles and lashers.

Most of the students in the class wove baskets that JoAnn had designed and figured out all the material sizes and weights, and made the molds, rims and handles in a nice neat kit form. Of course, since I was designing my own basket I also had to make all my own parts as well, which included making jigs to bend the handles and rims over. I ended up making the mold twice just to make sure I was happy with the shape and the handle form twice since the first time I completely screwed up the measurements.

Even though these baskets are really small they have the same number of uprights and the same number of rows, they are all just way smaller than the "regular" size baskets. So, it took just as long to weave these as it did to make their big brothers. This is the mini Shaker wood chip basket.

 This is the mini Shaker tatting basket. Tatting baskets already have small weavers and lots of uprights. The uprights are 1/8" wide and the weavers are 1/32" black ash.

 I wove both baskets in tandem. This is the wood chip after drying, leveling and with the uprights turned down.

While I could make the tatting basket ahead of time, I wasn't sure how big the tiny side handles needed to be though. So, I had to whittle these out of thick white ash growth rings. I had to make a sample one to figure out the shaping. While the originals were flattened across the top, I simply couldn't carve these thin enough to make that shape while them still having any strength.

Of course I couldn't just make two baskets, I had to start another one. This was a 2 1/2" Shaker quadrafoil tub. Fortunately I started this basket one evening when there was only one other person in the studio. I really needed quiet and total concentration to work on this basket start. Once I had a few rows put in I could let it rest for the evening and finish it the next day.

The larger wood chip basket was actually a half-scale version of a larger antique Shaker basket, so while this mini is half-scale of the large, it is actually quarter-scale of the original antique basket.

The mini tatting basket is a half-scale version since the larger one I made was actual size of a traditional Shaker tatting.

Like the weaving, the lashing of these baskets was surprisingly time consuming. Ultimately it took me two days to make each of these baskets, which was how long it took to make the larger versions.

My finished 2 1/2" black ash Shaker quadrafoil tub.

While this 1" Shaker cathead basket was the smallest I made, it was actually the easiest. JoAnn's materials are the best, so everything went together so nicely.

Everyone was all smiles after a week of weaving. I just wish that there could have been another week spent there. I so did not want to have to go back to the real world.

My four miniature black ash baskets. These were some of the most challenging baskets I have made, but definitely some of the most rewarding. Now I can't wait to go back to the John C. Campbell Folk School to do it all over again.