Artist: Jerry Maxey
Since childhood, I have worked with wood in various ways, building things and refinishing furniture at my father’s upholstery shop. He taught me how to do chair caning.
In my early thirties I found myself living in a small apartment in a new city where, for the first time, I had no access to a workshop. Desperate for something to make, I tried drawing, writing, cross-stitch, sewing, but nothing was satisfactory.
Then a weaver friend of mine gave me a couple of little books with basket patterns in them. Only a few hand tools were required and no workshop was needed. I made a couple of baskets and I became obsessed.
For the first few years, my materials were limited to dyed rattan and sea grass. I worked to find ways to make each basket unique. I got access to a wood shop and began to make baskets with wooden bases, then later with wooden rims and rings.
The characteristics of the wood inspire the form of the basket. The basket’s rim and base will usually come from the same log. I love taking rescued firewood and transforming it into art.
I do not draw or write down the patterns in advance, but have a clear picture in my mind how each piece might turn out. For me, each piece I make is a sketch for the next piece and the patterns evolve over time. Sometimes I will repeat a particular pattern or construction, but no two works are ever quite alike.
About the Work
The work is wicker-weave basketry of dyed rattan and seagrass cord, and lathe turned wood bases, rings and rims. Each piece is a one-of-a-kind handmade original. Even when I make a second piece with the same construction, they are never quite alike. Especially, the wooden elements have all the variety that nature provides.
The wood is all found wood, generally
trees that have fallen in storms. I use
many different species of wood and my
current body of work will have whatever
trees I have found most recently. Once I
have turned the wooden elements, I leave
them indoors for at least three weeks to
cure and stabilize. Then I do a final sanding and finish each piece with pure tung oil.
I then attach rattan spokes to the wood and construct the basket, weaving in the colors and patterns as I go. When completed, I finish the entire piece with tung oil to bring out the colors and produce a slightly aged patina to the work.
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