Yorkton area basket maker Morley Maier has had a piece selected for the most recent edition of Dimensions.
Dimensionsis the Saskatchewan Craft Council's biennial, open, juried, touring exhibition which encourages and rewards excellence in hand-crafted work. The juried show allows crafters to submit up to two pieces of artwork from Saskatchewan craftspeople and artists.
Maier’s piece is called ‘Dogwood and Cranberry Basket’.
“This very old, European style of ‘Frame’ basketry is sometimes referred to as ‘farmer-made’ because its simple construction and readily available materials allowed ordinary folks to make strong and useful containers,” noted Maier’s artist statement on the piece.
“This basket is woven with Red Osier Dogwood.
“The frame and ribs are willow.
“The handle is Highbush Cranberry.
“These native shrubs are common throughout much of our province.”
The statement went further detailing the creation process.
“The materials needed to make this kind of basket are gathered in the fall after the plants have become dormant. The thicker stems are used for frames and ribs.
“The new growth is used for weaving. After the materials are harvested they are sorted by size, bundled and frozen.
“Prior to use they are thawed and steamed for two or three minutes. Steaming is not meant to soften the weaver but rather to prevent the bark from cracking.
“Finished baskets are treated with food-safe light mineral oil.”
This is the third time Maier has entered Dimensions. He has also received two SCC awards; the Merit Award and the Award for Excellence in Functional and Production Ware.
“My baskets have been selected each time I have entered,” he told Yorkton This Week. “I feel very fortunate to have been selected again this year.
“There were 130 entries from 100 very skilled professional craftspeople from throughout the province. The jurors were asked to choose only 35 to be part of the show.”
Maier noted that just because he had been selected in the past, he wasn’t sure if the latest effort would be chosen.
“Our province has a great number of people doing wonderful things in a wide variety of media,” he said. “While I like my basket, I also had a chance to have an online look at the other entries. Amazing works, all of them!
“I would certainly have understood if my basket had not been selected.
“In the end, when I make a basket I hope that I will like it. If it makes me happy, there is a chance it will do the same for others.”
This year the show has taken on an added dimension for those involved as well.
“Dimensions usually only travels within our province,” explained Maier.
“This time it will travel to some other cities in Canada. “I think that this change has added some interest and excitement.”
Maier lives and farms near Yorkton, Saskatchewan. He has been making willow baskets for about 15 years.
“The baskets he makes are the traditional ribbed baskets that were originally made by Aboriginal people and Ukrainian/European settlers around Yorkton and wherever materials were available,” notes his artist bio. “This historical and cultural connection is important to Morley and is intentionally reflected in the work that he does . . .
“My preference is to make baskets that can be used as they were first intended; as containers to carry or store things. While some of the baskets I make might be considered decorative, most are ‘working’ baskets that most people will actually use. I hope that the baskets I make reflect and respect the history and traditions of willow basketry in our province. Most people would agree that there is a rustic natural quality to willow baskets that they find instinctively warm and appealing. I try not to do things with my baskets that would interfere with that.”