In New England Shaker communities, baskets were generally woven of black ash with handles of ash or other strong woods – maple, hickory, or oak. Preparation of material for baskets was arduous. Trees were felled and hauled, the bark was removed, and tree trunks were pounded until the annual growth rings could be pulled off the trunk, ring by ring, in order to make splints.
Heavier splints were shaped into upright ribs for the basket. Splints were split again, and for fancy baskets yet again, to make the thinner horizontal weavers. Shaker baskets were usually made on wooden forms, giving the baskets distinctive, consistent, and replicable shapes.
Splints were soaked to be pliable for weaving. Baskets had to dry before rims and handles could be attached. While rims and handles were often shaped using a drawknife or spoke-shave, at the peak of basket production, Shakers made these parts with power shaping machines.
Shane Rothe (they/them) joined Shaker Museum in July 2023, working with independent curator Maggie Taft on an exhibition for the new museum space in Chatham. Shane is an artist as well as a curator and continues to create in the mediums of painting, sculpture, writing, and performance. Shane holds a BFA from CalArts and an MA in art history and curatorial studies from the University of Chicago.