Annetta Kraayeveld made her first basket and found her passion. She is a self-taught contemporary basketmaker who creates vessels from painted watercolor paper. Drawn to ancient pottery and complex twill patterns, she loves the challenge of bringing her ideas to life.
How did you get started as a basketmaker? Always an artist, or was there a “moment”?
I was surrounded by makers as a child, my father was a carpenter and built both of my childhood homes and my mother, who never thought of herself as an artist, left a house full of things she made – beautiful things. I grew up making.
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As an adult I dabbled in ceramics, macrame, loom weaving, needle work, beadwork, crochet, quilting, glasswork and watercolor, but when I made my first basket in the early 1990’s I knew I was hooked. After that first class, I was self-taught. I spent several years weaving hours every day using patterns and books to help me weave the ideas that flooded my mind.
I still have that first basket; it signifies the beginning of an amazing journey.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I am a teaching artist, I spend a large portion of each year teaching classes and preparing for them; I also spend a lot of time on studio work.
As a contemporary basket teacher, I focus on techniques, understanding structure and shaping. I want my students to be well versed in the basics and use these skills in their own work. I am best known for my work in paper and my mathematical designs. I teach twill patterns and have developed a popular five-day workshop to teach diagonal twill plaiting.
My studio work is mostly in paper. I paint watercolor paper with acrylic paint and then cut the paper into strips anywhere from 2mm to11mm wide to use in my woven vessels. My work is very colorful, detailed and fine, much of my weaving is done with 2 or 3mm wide strips of paper and all of my vessels are hand-shaped. Currently I am drawn to ancient pottery forms and diagonal twill pattern work. I typically have at least two of each style basket in process.
Where do you find your inspiration for your designs?
I find myself looking at ancient pottery, thinking about pattern and playing with color. My sketch book, colored pencils and color wheel help me keep track of ideas.
Do you plan your work out ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
Sometimes I have a very firm idea of what I am going to make having a detailed sketch and decided on colors before I even get to the easel.
Other times I will be inspired to paint with no idea of what I will do with the paper. One day the paper will ‘speak’ to me and become a vessel.
And then there are the times when I have a firm idea, I paint the paper and start weaving. Then everything changes — my hands create something completely different.
Every piece I weave has its own story
How do you manage your creative time? Do you schedule start and stop times? Or work only when inspired?
I do schedule studio time. If I don’t have a schedule, I get caught up in all the busy work of having my own business. I try to weave or sketch or research for 2-4 hours a day, the schedule changes, sometimes daily, but it is planned. However, I am not a slave to the schedule. If I wake up with an idea I may scrap the schedule, or I will work late if the project needs it.
Describe your creative space.
I have decorated my home to be a place that celebrates memories and creativity. I find it inspirational to be surrounded by things people I know have made, by pieces from nature and by things given to me by people I love. I also keep pieces I have made or pieces I am making in my living space. I am inspired by my surroundings.
My home studio is a repurposed upstairs bedroom. My work table takes up the majority of the space and is surrounded by walls lined with book cases, storage units and display cases. The closet has been refurbished with built in shelves and a standing desk/table. There are in-process projects on my work table, a stack of books and several finished projects on the window seat, colorful materials on the shelves and in baskets on the floor, rocks and pinecones on the window ledge and baskets of all shapes and sizes displayed on shelves and on the walls. The skylight and large window, with a view of the big Montana sky and the Rockies, fill the room with light. And, because this is also my office, a rolltop desk, covered in pictures of people I love, notebooks, papers, and electronic devises sits along one wall. My lovely, ‘Not So Big, Big Enough’ studio is the perfect place to spend many hours each day.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
Sometimes I work in total silence however, I typically have my head set on and am listening to a book, a pod cast or music. I listen to music when I really need to concentrate on details, but usually I am listening to a book. While I love a good mystery, I listen to a wide range of books – I am always looking for suggestions. I also have a couple news podcasts I listen to daily, it’s a quick way to stay current.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
I am always working on a new project, I can’t resist. I usually have several in process in my sketch book; I have at least 6 projects in various stages of completion right now.
Sometimes I need to ponder the next step so the project will sit on my work table until I am ready to complete it. Sometimes I just have so many ideas, I can’t stop myself. I guess I would have to say I start a new project as often as I can.
I should also say here that I am a finisher, it is rare for me to not finish a project.
Which part of the design process is your favorite? Which part is a challenge for you?
I think my favorite part of designing is color. From choosing the colors to painting, I love it. To be honest, I love every part of the designing and the making, even the times when I have to go back to the drawing board because an idea is not falling together. I love the challenge and I find it fascinating when an idea becomes something completely different.
Has your basket making evolved over the years? If so, were there triggers to new ways of working?
My first baskets were functional and made out of rattan. Over the years, my baskets, while still functional, became more intricate and decorative. About 15 years ago, two things happened: I was having a hard time finding quality rattan so I started playing with paper and I decided to master diagonal twill plaiting.
Today, I consider my work somewhere between tradition and contemporary. I weave primarily in paper, and, while I am now a master diagonal twill plaiter, I am still exploring this fascinating weaving technique. I no longer concentrate on functional pieces, but I continue to be drawn to the vessel form and the concept of holding/carrying.
What is your advice for someone just starting basket making?
Find a good technique book, find a local teacher. Take classes and weave. Make baskets. Some will be good, some will be kindling, and several will be amazing.
But mostly have fun!
How do you make time for creating? Do you try to create daily?
Yes, I do ‘make’ daily, I schedule it. When I am traveling I typically take small weaving projects or a crochet project so even if I am not in the studio my hands can make.
When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
I always thought of myself as someone who made things and I considered myself creative. However, it took having someone I admire introducing me as an artist for me to call myself an artist. I will be forever grateful to this person for giving me the confidence to call myself an artist.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
This is such an interesting question, something I have pondered a great deal. There are so many kinds of creativity. I think everyone is creative in some way (cooking, decorating, managing people, teaching, making …). However, I also think that creativity is something that needs to be fed and nurtured. The more we nurture our creative core, the more creative we become.
Where can people find your work?
Interview posted September 2023
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