Anne Bowers went to a one-day basket making class and was hooked! Her signature is ribbed baskets. She adapts the basic structures to create modern baskets with the use of color and unique materials.
Have you always been an artist? Was there a moment that you realized you were creative?
Being the oldest of 5 children, I was always encouraged to be creative, to make and do things. My mother was always having us sew on a machine, by hand (cross-stitch, embroidery, etc.), make candles and potholders, sit-upons, paint and create costumes. I even tried basket weaving when I was a Junior Girl scout!
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There was a ‘moment’ that I’ll never forget, when I went to a one-day basket making class. I was absolutely enthralled with the process and was hooked – hook, line, and sinker!
What is your signature? What do you do differently?
In my life as a basket maker and teacher of basketry, my signature is ribbed baskets.
A reflection of my Appalachian roots, I specialize in making/teaching these traditional baskets like the Egg, Potato, Herb and Oriole forms, intrinsic to the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have learned how to take these and other kinds of ribbed baskets and adapt those structures to create other more modern baskets with the use of colors and materials.
How is your work different than it was at the beginning?
Like many artisans, my work at the beginning was elementary, shown in basic skills and forms.
As a mostly self-taught maker, my weaving evolved as time went by, showing the new skills I was developing. Now, after 40+ years of making and designing baskets, I can incorporate knowledge of color, structure, materials, and design features into some really fancy baskets that are uniquely mine.
What do you do to develop your skills?
Three things: Repetition, teaching, continued learning.
Let me explain … I find that my best developmental habit is that of repeating a weaving process again and again … and again. The more often I repeat a technique, the better I become at it. And the better I become at that technique, the more I can think about how to improve, alter, and change it.
Secondly, when I teach, it reinforces in my mind how that process works and how best to communicate it.
Thirdly, I find that I need to step out of my comfort zone and try some techniques and weaving that I have not yet explored. This last one keeps my creative energy fresh and interesting to me.
Describe your creative space.
My studio is large enough to accommodate a 12-person basket class.
The light is wonderful, with windows on three walls with the fourth wall having shelves to display my finished work. That wall is painted a deep, smoky purple. Lovely! The opposing wall, under the windows, has a long counter with cabinets underneath to store unopened reed.
One corner is devoted to handles and miscellaneous materials and there is a ladder that runs the length of the studio suspended from the ceiling. I hang baskets from hand-hammered hooks from the ladder.
All wall space is used to display baskets, too! (It is a bit crowded! But it gives me pleasure to see work and materials all around me.)
What are the indispensable tools that you use?
Basket makers can use a wide variety of tools to assist them in their weaving. Although I have a drawer full of tools, I really use only 5 tools regularly – shears, an awl, a knife, a small pair of angled cutters and a pencil.
My main tools are my HANDS. Recently, the artists in the Over the Mountain Studio Tour in Jefferson County, WV, of which I am one, were asked what their favorite tool was. This poem is my response.
My favorite ‘tool’ is my hands
My primary tool
is really showing
wear and tear.
Not as supple or strong
as it used to be,
best in places
from so much
My tool is
simply the best
by other makers.
After all the work
it has done,
it still can
At times it needs
Which part of the design process is your favorite? Which part is a challenge for you?
My favorite part is the weaving! Truly my happy place!
The least favorite is the finishing, removing ‘hairs’ from baskets, staining or adding a small embellishment. 95% of the basket is my joy – I’d rather skip the last little bit!
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
Well, I could write a book about this question!
The short answer is that I save so many things. Sticks, antlers, wasp nests, bark, knotholes, wool, yarn, string. (Now you see why my studio is so full!)
And everything looks like a basket to me! (I even went through a long series of weaving every antique kitchen tool that I could find into a basket.)
It starts with one of the above items. Then I envision how to make it into a basket. Much experimenting on how to fasten weavers to the object, which sometimes involves drilling.
Here is an example – using knotholes found in some of the wood that we use to heat our home, I create these cool baskets. They are not functional, more just pieces of woven art to be displayed on the wall or a level surface.
How have other people supported or inspired you?
Belonging to our local studio tour for 34 years has put me in the glorious company of creative folk in many, many genres. Seeing them on a regular basis helps me feel enthused about my work, appreciated for my expertise, and inspired by theirs.
The basket community that I am part of – from classes held in my studio to faithful students, those students that I meet and teach who are members of various basketry guilds and associations has been extremely positive for me.
And, as a member of the National Basketry organization, I am inspired daily by the high quality of work and inspiration these artists have given me. I know I’ve not arrived where I am in my career on my own steam – it has been through the many facets of inspiration and support I’ve received that I am so blessed and thankful for.
What traits do you think that creative people have as compared to those who are not creative?
First, I believe all people are creative. Some express their creativity in the care they give others, in how they live, as opposed to ‘making things’.
Those of us who ‘make things’, I believe, see the world a little differently. I think we see colors, patterns in nature, structure, shapes, differently. We see – we don’t just glance over stuff. We are making mental notes all of the time and storing in our minds what is aesthetically pleasing.
Where can people see your work?
I am often ‘on the road’ teaching, contact me for a schedule if you’d like to attend any of those events.
If a week-long retreat is more your style, where you’d enjoy a submersion into weaving in an exquisite, rustic setting, see me at one of my Shenandoah Creates workshops.
You can also find some of my work at the National Basketry Organizations website.
Currently, I do not have my own personal website. Online sales, etc., are not the way my creative energy flows!
Recently, my first book has been published! “Ribbed Basketry – Traditional to Contemporary” is in print and it is a great resource for those who want to learn more about how to weave these baskets. Contact me for a copy or go to Amazon. (Currently, only the Kindle version is available on Amazon.)
Interview posted November 2023
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