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White oak basket making class set for March 8
white oak basket making pic
Photo provided Master basket maker Sue Williams, at left, and her apprentice Michelle Hennessee will demonstrate the basket making process March 8 at the Arts Center of Cannon County. The free event is open to the public.

A master and apprentice team from the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program will be demonstrating white oak basket making in Woodbury on March 8 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Master white oak basket maker Sue Williams of Morrison, and her apprentice Michelle Hennessee have been invited to display and demonstrate their rare and endangered folk craft at the Arts Center of Cannon County,  located at 1424 John Bragg Highway, Woodbury.

Cannon, Warren, and Rutherford counties are considered by many folklorists to be the epicenter of this once ubiquitous local traditional art form. Williams and Hennessee will demonstrate and display their ongoing work. An accompanying PowerPoint presentation of their recent work together will also be shown. Attendance to this special Tennessee Folklife demonstration is free and open to the public.

Williams and Hennessee are one of nine teams funded by the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Folklife Program to pass down rare and endangered traditional art forms and skills in this year’s Tennessee Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program.

Williams learned her art from legendary Cannon County basket makers Estel and Gertie Youngblood and Mary Jane Prater starting in 1985. She has avidly taught, promoted and sharpened her skills in her chosen craft over the years. Williams is training Hennessee in the full process of locating an appropriate white oak tree and harvesting a pole that will be of the quality needed to break down to get supplies ready to make a basket. Williams is also teaching her the Cannon County Tie, a special X Pattern with a vertical bar woven at the point where the basket handle connects to the rim on each side. Additionally people may sign up for a future basket making class to be scheduled at the Arts Center.
Apprentice Hennessee said, “There are very few people that understand and appreciate the work and various steps involved in harvesting the tree, preparing, and weaving a handmade white oak basket.  Like so many skills of previous generations, these are at risk to become a lost art.”

Documentary photographs featuring this team’s work together, as well as displays of their baskets, will be included among photographs and artifacts from the other eight teams at the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program Exhibition, Tennessee Arts Commission’s Gallery, May 18 to July 14 in Nashville.

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