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A Tisket a Tasket - It's a Nantucket Basket!

The Nantucket Basket, simplistic in design and painstakingly crafted, is a treasured collectible know the world over. The hand woven basket is created using a mold over which cane or bamboo is intricately fashioned in oval or round shapes with a hard wood base. The stays are oak or sturdy cane and the designs can be detailed or plain with symmetrical patterns.

Nantucket baskets are the creative result of bored sailors who manned the lightships off the coast of Massachusetts. These men spent days at anchor setting the navigation lights aboard their ships that marked the shoals. Since the hours were long and uneventful, the sailors took up the crafting of baskets that were sold in the market at Nantucket. The baskets were extremely sturdy and held pint, peck and half bushel volumes which were a much needed storage and transportation tool of local farmers. The Nantucket Lightship Basket era lasted from 1856 until 1905 and provided a lucrative outlet for the sailors. The caning materials were traded from Caribbean ships and the ivory from whalers. After the lightships were disbanded, the art of the basket remained with artisans and craftsmen who perfected the art form by adding decorative and stylistic touches.

Original Nantucket Lightship Baskets are extremely sought after and rare, often commanding prices in the $35,000 range. But, beware of knock-offs from Asian factories. Many contemporary Nantucket baskets are fashioned into purses, totes, and bowls that certainly will retain their value for years and will prove to be family heirlooms. As always, be an educated consumer before you purchase.

(Sources available upon request : Pictures from the collection of Patricia Cromes)

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