Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nantucket Berry Basket

I started this basket in 2003-04 while visiting Nantucket Island and taking a Nantucket Basket Making seminar with Islander basket maker Peter Finch. I was there with Charlie my now husband, whose company was renovating the Nantucket Whaling Museum and we had the chance to spend quite a bit of time on the island. I love it there and I always loved the Bantucket Lightship Baskets so it was a natural for me to call up Peter Finch. I didn't have a car so I walked ot his studio/shop/home on Polliwog Pond Road to initially meet him before I took a subsequent seminar another visit. He is a delightful man and a joy to be around. I was thrilled when he agreed to give me a private lesson on my next visit. I heard he still makes baskets but has turned his present day attention to jewelry and he makes a Nantucket "Bracket" which is a woven cuff with scrimshaw etchings. Quite stunning. You can check out his website at .

This particular basket is a six inch berry basket and one of my first projects after getting my first Nantucket mold. Being a novice, I made every mistake you can make on this basket and even put the base on backwards and the staves on upside-down. When I brought it back to Peter Finch and showed it to him, he laughed about it and made a bit of fun so I never really finished the basket because it had gotten off on the wrong foot. It has sort of sat around my shelves for several years. Today, I pulled together a drill with my husbands help and got the handle on and the shell motif on the bottom. You may notice that I signed my name on the backwards bottom M. Smith. This was made before I married Mr. Abbott (which was 6.5 years ago) and became Melissa Smith Abbott. 

If you look at the detail of the staves in this basket you can see how they taper off to the top. This is not supposed to be how it is the tapering should be next to the base. Oh well, it still looks ok and if I didn't tell you, you wouldn't know unless you had an eye for that detail.

The base was also put on backwards and this square part should be on the inside of the basket while the rounded part on the inside should be on the outside. I guess it is a matter of taste and yes I can now see my error. The rounded part would look better on the outside but in my mind the stability of the base should be first and foremost and that is why I probably picked this side when I blindly started this basket, forgetting half of what I had learned from Peter Finch.

I decided to use some bone beads for the handle and I used a screw type nut and bolt affair on the handle as well. I think it looks stunning all finished even if the staves and bottom are a little topsy turvy!

It feels really good to get some projects finished up and make room for more basket projects.
Thanks for reading my blog and for all you basket makers out there, you know you all have the backwards basket someplace on some shelf. I know it! I had one and it took guts to drag it out and finish it in spite of its defects. In hindsight, they are sweet defects and I have learned to love them. Happy Basket making!

Kind Regards,  Melissa Abbott


  1. It is sweet, and definitely, if you hadn't mentioned the issues we'd never know them. The basket looks lovely.

  2. Thanks Pam! I know, it just goes to show that something can be perfect in it's difference and that it is all in the eye of the beholder! I did learn a lot from these "mistakes" but I never finished the basket because of them and I am glad I finally got a chance to go back and reexamine my ideas of what is perfect and what is not... A lesson for so many aspects of life.