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Sunday, July 31, 2011

APPALACHIA -- OLD HANDMADE RIB BASKETS



 SMALL SPLIT RIB EGG BASKET
On early Appalachian farms and in small towns, collecting eggs for the household usually involved a child or teen trotting out to the chicken house to gather eggs from some protective mother hens. Along with the young person came a small egg basket that could easily handle a dozen eggs. These baskets were made in the region  -- sometimes by the very household that collected the eggs.

The Appalachian area eventually became famous for their well crafted baskets. There were many basket designs -- small, large, and medium each designed to fulfill a certain use. The basket construction varied with the maker -- examples being round rib, round, and rectangular to name a few.

The art of basket making was often passed down to the next generation. Various construction methods can sometimes identify the basket-weaver or the family weavers. 

Appalachian split baskets initially seemed to be made to provide containers for various chores around their country farms. The raw materials were available in the abundant woodlands and the knowledge to make them was present among the folks. Split baskets are strips of wood such as hickory, oak, or ash splits removed from felled trees.


SMALL SPLIT RIB EGG BASKET -- CLOSE UP
Above is a close up of the small split rib egg basket seen in my top photo. The wide rounded handle is worn smooth from years of handling. The ribs are those carved pieces that emerge out from the top diagonally. The weavers are those strips that are woven around the entire basket. Making a basket took time and skill. 

Law and Taylor's book, Appalachian White Oak, Basketmaking, Handing Down the Basket, discusses the complete process of basketmaking from tree to finished basket.

I mentioned that these baskets were for chores around the house. Well their beauty and craftsmanship eventually attracted buyers both from the immediate surroundings and afar. Basketmaking became a cottage industry -- whole families sometimes got involved and some could even support themselves by the basket trade. 

Today these Appalachian baskets are treasures that are sought after by collectors of antiques and folk art. Many spiral into the hundreds of dollars range. 

If you are lucky though, they can still be found at Appalachian yard sales or perhaps at estate sales -- at reasonable prices.


38 comments:

  1. That is a work of art, for sure.

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  2. Hello:
    We think that the egg basket is lovely. Such beautiful workmanship and there is always something very satisfying about an article which has obviously been made with such care and used so well. We can well see why these baskets are fetching high prices when or if they become available.

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  3. I love old baskets and thanks for increasing my knowledge of them.

    Also your comment yesterday at my place was/is really excellent!

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  4. I'm always looking at baskets in thrift stores and garage sales, but never can tell what is authentic and what is more than likely make in China. The wood strips look like they would be hard to work with but I guess they developed a way to soften them for weaving.

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  5. I admire the skill and know-how it took to make those baskets: both practical and pretty. I hope it has not disappeared as an art and trade.

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  6. Love these old baskets. But then, I love all the old crafts. I have a couple of baskets at my house, some of them pretty old, others not. I have a laundry basket made in Mexico that my Mom bought ages ago in 1940s Texas, and I kept. Has held up incredibly well although I continue to use it for laundry. Maybe I should have it appraised?

    Nice blog today about a favorite subject. Heck, I like all your blogs. Dianne

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  7. I'm proud to be an owner of one of these small egg baskets. It's one of my favorite treasures. I bought it in TN several years ago.

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  8. Louise -- Thanks for stopping by. Appalachian baskets, because of their cultural influence, have truly become works of art. -- barbara

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  9. Jane and Lance -- I'm thinking that the basketmakers of the region knew that these baskets would need to stand up to hard farm use so they made them well. They are lovely to look at with their worn patinas. Thanks for the comments -- barbara

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  10. Kay -- thanks for the comment. People in the Appalachian area were resourceful in making money. Baskets didn't sell for much but it gave them a little bit more than they had before. -- barbara

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  11. Linda, a good way to educate yourself about old baskets is to visit antique stores with authentic wares. Maybe the owner could show you the difference between old and new. Thanks for stopping by -- barbara

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  12. Birdie - Thanks for your nice comment -- barbara

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  13. Rose -- Perhaps there are a few old time basket weavers in Appalachia. Ones that the skill has been passed down in the family. I am not sure of this. There are new basketmakers that have learned the old craft and can be found showing their wares at craft fairs in Appalachia. -- Thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  14. Dianne -- Your laundry basket will probably last another 50 years if it was made in the 40s when basket were sturdily made. It might be worth some money too. Nice that you have so many baskets -- I imagine they come in handy for several projects. Thanks for the nice words about my posts -- barbara

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  15. I love these baskets. I also love your header photo. I have a niece going to Berea College in a few months. I think it's a great place.

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  16. Mama Bug -- TN is a good place to find an old Appalachian egg basket. I bet you were thrilled when you found it. One can almost see and feel the maker in those old baskets -- barbara

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  17. Farmchick -- Berea College is a great liberal arts college for Kentuckians. The Appalchian baskets are wonderful -- thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  18. Handmade baskets a wonderful art be it in the Appalachians or China. I wanted to make one last winter out of all the vines hanging around here. Never did. Maybe this winter. I would like to make one without being taught or reading a book. Just figure it out. Someone had to do that originally. Thanks for triggering the memory of an unfulfilled desire.

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  19. I've always been drawn to baskets, and have had to really exert a lot of self-control to keep from filling up my house with them. I have just one vintage one and a couple of really unique folk art (not mass produced) ones. I love your basket ~ did you manage to find it in a yard sale? I'd like to have a Micmac carrying basket from Maine someday!

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  20. I'm always intrigued by this area art

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  21. A beauty. I'm lucky to have a friend who makes gorgeous split oak baskets (she splits the oak) and willow baskets she grows the willow. She helped me through making a couple of baskets once and I have the greatest admiration for the work and skill involved.

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  22. Grampy -- I always believe that how we really learn something through experience. I have an old honeysuckle vine basket -- vines make very attractive and useful baskets. Good weaving! -- barbara

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  23. Laloofah -- this basket belongs to my youngest daughter. She got it here in KY. It belonged to a family that had originally lived in a log cabin about a hundred years ago. The present family kept the log and the furnishings within it but recently had a break-in and so they decided to sell some of the items. My daughter was fortunate to get some of the items when she was here visiting me.

    Nice that you have a collection of baskets. They are useful as well as good looking. Some day you'll get that Maine basket. -- barbara

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  24. Birdman -- Thanks for the comment. The Appalachian area does have a distinct traditional art that is desired by many. -- barbara

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  25. Vicki -- How wonderful that you have made the traditional baskets of Appalachia. Your friend is amazing. To actually split the wood to make the basket! This is truly the old way. Thanks for telling us about this friend -- very interesting. -- barbara

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  26. NCmountainwoman -- These old baskets are a sight to behold. Such beauty they emanate. Thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  27. What a fine basket. I took a class once from one of the old basketmakers here. It's harder than you might think, and usually the men were the basket makers because of the heavy work involved in cutting and splitting and shaving all those ribs, handles and splits. I made 4 baskets and like a fool gave them away. Then I started making honeysuckle baskets--a lot easier. I still have some of the handles and splits I made, I think.

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  28. Granny Sue -- what good information. Honeysuckle baskets are so petite compared to the heavy oak ones. I have one that I find just charming. In one of the Foxfire books there is an article on some old basketmakers complete with lots of photos. Can't remember which one? Nice that you make baskets and realize the time and skill that goes into each one. Thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  29. Very nice picture and informative post. perhaps I should have read the comments [a bit rushed right now] but I'm wondering if there are still a few people making baskets and selling them.

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  30. June -- yes there are folks still making the baskets in the old way but they are very few and far between. Some new to the scene basketmakers are reproducing the baskets -- some are quite good -- others are not. thanks for stopping by -- barbara

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  31. I love baskets. That is such a nice old basket and it is beautifully made.

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  32. Janet -- I imagine that you can find such old baskets in your area. Or maybe not as they are to kind in KY. -- barbara

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  33. A wonderful skill and a beautiful product.

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  34. Sheri -- Thanks for the comments. Actually, you made two but the first one blogger would not publish. I have been having this problem with blogger on occasion. Anyway, thank you for all -- barbara

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  35. I love these. I have an old egg basket just like this!

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  36. Tess -- Aren't old Appalachian baskets wonderful. How nice that you have an old egg basket. Thanks for the comment. -- barbara

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