Immerse yourself in heritage oak basketry. Learn from the skilled hands of a husband/wife team as you split out an oak tree to create a basket. Then follow the guidance of a Tennessee Governor’s Folk Life Award winner to refine techniques of splitting and scraping to create a quintessential Appalachian egg basket. Finish your session with a revered Cherokee native known for her white oak basketry. All classes require strong hands and stamina.

This session is part of our Traditional Craft Mentorship Program, a grant-funded opportunity for early to mid-career artists to spend a month at the Folk School this fall, learning from master artisans. To learn more, visit our About page. To apply for a spot in our Session 1 Basketry mentorship, visit our Slideroom application.

Week 1: September 20–26

Traditional Split-oak Basketry

Mary Ann and Bill Smith

Shape a mallet on a draw horse, then use it and other traditional hand tools to rive splits from a white oak tree. Craft your splits into a sturdy and functional tree-to-basket work of art. Explore the surrounding woods and learn to identify the characteristics that make a tree suitable for this craft. Come for the challenge and leave with an heirloom basket with hand-carved handle and rims. 

Weeks 2 and 3: September 27–October 10 (2-week class)

Canon County Style White Oak Egg Basket

Sue Williams

Continue your tree-to-basket immersion, starting with a white oak. Learn to split out and prepare the materials needed for a 7-inch white oak egg basket. Explore splitting and carving ribs, scraping and cutting weavers, and weaving and shaping. Follow the style of Canon County, TN, home of the split oak egg basket with a “bow tie” start.

Week 4: October 11–17

Cherokee Split-oak Market Basket

Betty Maney

Round out your month-long basketry session with a second-generation, renowned Cherokee artist to learn the steps from preparation of oak splits through weaving a market basket. Scrape, cut, and dye splits with bloodroot and black walnut, and incorporate traditional Cherokee designs into your handwoven piece.

About Mary Ann and Bill Smith

Mary Ann and Bill have been making oak baskets for well over 20 years. It all began when they met and apprenticed with Mr. Jesse Thomason, a third generation basket maker from Blount County, AL. Each basket begins by harvesting a carefully selected white oak tree and ends after many hours spent riving and cleaning the splits with simple hand tools and then weaving the basket. The handles and rims are hand carved for each basket.

Mary Ann and Bill have recently retired as the resident basket makers at Tannehill Historical State Park after demonstrating there for more than 15 years. They continue to be a part of the white oak basket makers gathering they started more than 5 years ago and to experiment with other basket making materials. Mary Ann and Bill are members of the National Basketry Organization, the North Carolina Basketry Association and the Natural Fibers Group.

Visit Mary Ann & Bill’s website.

About Sue Williams

Sue Williams has been making white oak baskets for over 30 years. She has been an exhibitor and demonstrator for the annual White Oak Craft Fair in Cannon County for 15 years, winning Best of Show numerous times. Sue has won several top awards for her baskets and has been sharing her basket skills for over 20 years. Sue was one of only nine recipients in 2019 of the inaugural In These Mountains: Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowships, a program of South Arts designed to highlight and support exemplary traditional bearers from the Appalachian region of Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

About Betty Maney

A white oak and river cane basket weaver, bead worker, and potter, Betty Maney can often be found at her Cherokee, North Carolina home studio cutting and dyeing the oak strips to weave one of her exquisite baskets. That’s when she’s not working out a new design for her latest beaded creation or hand building her traditional Cherokee stamped pottery pieces. A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), Betty’s one-of-a-kind contemporary, cultural art pieces are heavily influenced by traditional techniques and materials handed down with each generation.

Visit Betty’s website.

Follow Betty on Facebook.

During these mentorships, our instructors will also be presenting a series of Virtual Demonstrations. These programs are open to the public and will cost $10 to attend via Zoom. Lean more: Traditional Craft Mentorships: Virtual Demonstrations.

All Photos Courtesy of the Artists, or from the Folk School Archives.

John C. Campbell Folk School
About John C. Campbell Folk School

The Folk School transforms lives, bringing people together in a nurturing environment for experiences in learning and community life that spark self-discovery. Located in scenic Brasstown, North Carolina, the Folk School offers year-round weeklong and weekend classes for adults in craft, art, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography and writing.