Shaker Museum

Installation view, 2018.

Durable beauty: Baskets from Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon (2018)

Online Exhibition

Making Baskets

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.