Nathan Taylor

basket weaving teacher

Based in
Warner, New Hampshire, United States
Nathan  Taylor | basket weaving teacher

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I have been making baskets for more than 3 decades. The entirety of my basket making has been done in New Hampshire where I was born and raised. My interest in basketry was birthed of two things. One was my partner’s interest in them and the second our discovery of a void in Shaker history. That was the history of Shaker basketry.

Due to the happenings of Watergate, my partner’s business as a private investigator evaporated overnight. I told her to let me support us. She should pursue a love of something as a career, not expecting any financial return. Her interest in basketry led us to the nearby Shakers. Over several years we came to realize that nothing was known. I had never found a void like this. Wherever we went there was no real information and we decided to pursue it. We would become basketmakers in our search. After ten years of constant devotion to the craft and the pursuit of Shaker scholarship we came to write and publish two books, Legend of the Bushwhacker Basket and Shaker Baskets, Wetherbee and Taylor.

We discovered that the Supreme Leadership of the Shakers was in fact the basketmakers. They had built an industry that would be one of their most lucrative and for a time their second largest income. We discovered they were the first to mold handles, rims and basket bodies. They devised the most accurate cutting knives and produced fine splints down to 1/32 of an inch in width. The inventors of the circular saw, they brought the most modern woodworking tools to the craft. The splints would be pounded from the black ash log with the use of a large trip hammer. The basket making craft would survive for 100 years in their hands. The Supreme Leader would do the laborious work of making all of the splints for up to 4,000 baskets a year. There had never been such a powerful basket making group. Daniel Boler, a Supreme Leader of the nineteen Shaker communities would lead the basket making. At the same time he would govern the spiritual and material lives of all Shakers. The result was a line of some seventy odd exquisitely made and designed basketry. These baskets would evolve over decades into the purest of form and delicacy. They were made for the home and sold to the wealthy.

An eight year quest to replicate them was what it took to duplicate this work at my will. This was my apprenticeship. We opened a basket shop at Canterbury Shaker Village, Canterbury, NH when it was still the home of the Shaker Eldress’. This would be the first basket shop in a Shaker village in some 90 years. We worked with the original Shaker molds loaned to us by various museums at the behest of Eldress’ Bertha and Gertrude. On July 4, 1976, the bicentennial, we opened our basket shop in Sanbornton, NH where we would work for the remainder of the 25 years we would make baskets together.

After 15 years of Shaker basket making I became interested in the Nantucket’s. They were made with a molded system learned from the Shaker example. They were uniquely designed and they carried a finish or varnish, a shellac. Couple this with the use of fine woods, they could be brought to an art form and were. They were made for practical uses and carried a perceived value. They carried an intriguing history and they were very durable. There was a tradition of being dressed with ivory and bone findings. Made in the proper way and of the proper materials they will last several lifetimes. All this was attractive to me. It was easy to transition from Shaker to Nantucket basket making. Long ago, I had converted my business from Shaker basket making for collectors to Shaker basket teaching in an attempt to spread the knowledge and save the craft. Today there are many makers of fine traditional Shaker baskets and their prices have become more affordable with the volume. The emphasis of my Nantucket basket making would be to teach and I am doing that to this day. I created a Nantucket basketmakers catalog that can be found on line as well as my catalog for makers of Shaker basketry.

My life has been one dedicated to quality and tradition. I have no fear in becoming the next step in a tradition, so innovation is also a big part of who I am. If I’m not moving forward I am not very happy. Working with Basketville, a basket company in Putney, VT, was a progression. There was eight years of contact and observation between us and I came away believing that quality was a goal. Working with them I found it to be true. The baskets we made then and the baskets we make now do proud service to those who went before us. Only the finest materials find their way into my baskets. They are made of the highest quality blonde Indonesian cane and American hardwoods. There are no reed rims, handles or staves in these baskets. Cane is the bark of the rattan plant. It is made up of strong continuous stringy fibers. Its strength is hidden behind its smooth, shiny, hard surface. The much used center of the rattan plant (technically a grass, called reed) is made up of soft tubes. It holds none of the properties of the hardwood basket rims and handles. Reed doesn't have the memory that wood has for staying in place and keeping its shape. Although much easier to work with, these materials will never be found in our traditionally made Nantucket's.

Over my career I introduced cherry basket handles and rims into a modern version of Shaker design and I carried that forward into my Nantucket's. I make rims, bases, handles, and lids from ash, cherry and walnut. Our standard line of baskets all carries bone findings and brass hardware and real leather. All Nantucket's come varnished to a sheen. I’m proud to be able to offer these extremely high quality affordable baskets for your pleasure. My working life has been devoted to spreading the love of basketry that I have. Finding the lost history, teaching what I have learned and now creating affordable Nantucket's has all been in that single cause. Today anyone with a job can afford a beautiful Nantucket basket that once was out of reach for most people. I’m proud to have a part in continuing the tradition.


Aimed at: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.

Last login: 11 years 30 weeks ago

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