Aging Gracefully


Aging Gracefully
Th e c r a f t o f b a s k e t m a k i n g
Aging Gracefully
In a rustic log cabin high up in the Rocky Mountains where only four-wheelers
and horses can go, a couple sits by their stone fireplace as the daylight fades, the
smoke of a cottonwood fire sweetening the air. Beside the hearth sits a trusted old
friend—a Longaberger basket, aged and worn but steady as the lofty pines that
line the valley.
Earlier that day it made another of its countless trips out into
the woods for pinecones and kindling to start the fire. Some
days it holds tools as repairs are made to the property, and
every once in a while it goes into town, strapped to the side
of a tall, high-country horse.
Celebrating American Crafts
Longaberger Signatures | fall 2013
And every day, all across America Longaberger baskets
Longaberger made most of them. You can tell just by
just like this one earn their place next to sofas, fireplaces,
looking that they’re coming up on their century mark.
back doors and kitchen tables. This is the story about the
other side of Longaberger baskets; the dinged, scratched,
faded, still showing up for work every day.
BELOW: With a custom-made tool, the basket is aged by hand. This time-consuming
and wear have given them a unique character. You
process relies heavily on the creative eye of the artisan to carefully apply the right amount
of wear in the right places.
can almost see J.W.’s hand reaching for the handle,
There’s something familiar and heartwarming
then turning down the road with a little one
about a well-used Longaberger basket. The way
holding the other hand, setting off to find berries for
maple fades and ages stirs a rustic feeling of hearth
Grandma Bonnie’s pies.
and home, and the comfortable satisfaction of a day
full of honest work.
It’s an abused Longaberger basket that doesn’t become
a well-aged heirloom. With roots in the pottery
Even collectors use their Longaberger baskets for more
industry, they are not cheaply made or limited to
than just display. While many take meticulous care of
simple décor. Earlier examples were woven in Ash and
their prized collection, there are many more with a
other woods, but maple is the primary wood source,
daily-use Longaberger basket that, even after ten plus
woven with double-thick veneer throughout. Short of
years, is just beginning to show its age and use.
purposely crushing one, there’s not much you can do
Americans have a soft spot for things that age
gracefully—like a well-worn pair of blue jeans, a
broken-in baseball glove or a faded old table, nicked
to take a Longaberger basket out of commission.
with history and smoothed by years of use. We love
Antiquing is a design trend that fits well with
the authentic, and the stories that award the title.
Longaberger products. Kitchen cabinets, tables and
In over a decade of Signatures magazines, we’ve seen
many of these history-in-the-making baskets. They
gather eggs, carry quilting and sewing, help out on
the farm and set the tables of inns and restaurants.
benches are all common items to be antiqued, giving
them a comfortable, homey feeling that new furniture
lacks. Brass, mirrors, coat racks, doors or any item that
used to be made of simple materials can be antiqued.
The right combination of proper wear and tear,
A plain-looking kitchen cabinet becomes a stately
meticulous maintenance and hard-earned character
heirloom with antiquing, and a four-post bed takes on
is uncommon; such wear on an authentic item, even
an intriguing history with the right amount of work.
ABOVE: Longaberger artisans experiment with
more difficult to find.
But the process isn’t simple. Many hardware stores sell
different antique stain options. The new basket
antiquing kits including special glazes and tools for
begins with pre-stained maple splints, crafted
aging your creation. Proper antiquing requires taking
In the basement of the Longaberger “Big Basket”
And yet, they still look, and are, very useable. Time
with the same care and attention to detail that
gives it the strength to last for centuries.
the furniture apart, cleaning and re-staining.
home office is an archive room with one of every
The beauty of a Longaberger basket is it looks right at
basket style Longaberger has ever made. Among
home among any furniture and in any home, antique
them is a selection of truly historic baskets. J.W.
or modern. Unlike other baskets that are overlooked
Celebrating American Crafts
Longaberger Signatures | fall 2013
Visit th e Home of
in their role in a home, a Longaberger basket always
Until Longaberger, that is. The same company that
catches the eye. An antiqued Longaberger basket is
champions handcrafted tradition, American values
even more impactful wherever it sits.
and honest-to-goodness quality, is also the company
that has pushed basket innovation to new limits. The
You don’t have to be a high-mountain woodsman or
Collectors Club Antiqued Medium Bushel Basket is
a perfect example.
backcountry horse breeder to have your own aged,
After several experiments with sand paper, dremel
storied treasure of a basket. Inspired by the many
tools, solvents and fabrics, two basket designers made a
beautiful, well-used Longaberger baskets in existence
custom tool that produced the right results—something
today, designers and artisans worked for months on a
similar to a spinning fan with sandpaper blades. The
way to craft a new, authentic Longaberger basket with
basket is first woven with pre-stained maple splints as
old-basket charm.
any other Longaberger basket is crafted. A basketmaker
Inspiration came from all those true hard-working
Longaberger baskets—held close for decades against
then uses the custom tool to wear away the splints,
using an artistic eye to get it just right.
the heavy cotton apron of a farmer’s wife, or the long
The basketmaker then applies additional stain
wool coat of her husband as he gathers kindling for the
by hand—a painstaking process that takes
fire; wrapped carefully in the arms of a Midwestern
patience, care and an artistic touch. Perhaps no
small-town shopper walking back from the corner
other basket in Longaberger history has a more
store; or bumping and jostling up against firkin
personal touch than this.
Visit Longaberger Homestead &
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buckets and bags of feed in the back of a faded old
wood-bed Chevy truck.
F i n i s h i n g T o u ch e s
Early attempts to recreate the years of wear had an
The shape of the Collectors Club Antiqued Medium
interesting effect on the baskets. Often, the techniques
Bushel Basket is classic—big enough to fill, but
used would give them a polished look, as if made of
small enough to carry when full, like a work pail. In
plastic. Time has a way of aging things gently, in ways
harmony with its all-maple construction, two rope
that are hard to reproduce. This was not going to be
handles are attached with leather and rivets. This is
an easy task.
the kind of basket a craftsman would have made for
• Basketmaking Floor Tour—Watch our artisans
craft our famous baskets, including the new
Collectors Club Antiqued Medium Bushel Basket.
• Make A Basket—Craft your own keepsake with
the help of a Longaberger basket maker, or visit
J.W.'s Workshop to make a commemorative
Large Picnic Basket or Villager Basket, now
available in beautiful fall colors.
himself a hundred years ago to get things done.
B a s k e t I n n o v at i o n s
On the inside rim are the initials of the basketmaker
For thousands of years, from Central Africa to
who wove the basket, applied the antiquing by hand,
Northern Japan and all across the planet, craftsmen
re-stained the worn splints and added the handles. The
have been making baskets and pottery from the land
only thing missing is you, and the story you write for
around them. Each region has its own style and way of
the rest of this basket’s history. Like all the best stuff
doing it, but the basics haven’t changed for centuries.
from Longaberger, Collectors Club members get this
• Heritage Days—Be sure to visit us in the fall for
Heritage Days and other fun events and sales.
ABOVE: New stain is applied to the basket by hand to restore the
original texture and coloring. This is an unprecedented amount of
hand-touched finish for any Longaberger basket. After the stain dries,
We look forward to seeing you there!
the handles are applied and the basket is signed and dated.
handcrafted treatment first. #
Celebrating American Crafts
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