The tiny island of Nantucket has a long history of heralded craftsmanship, from its classic cedar-shingled homes to its iconic baskets, which are thought to have originated with Nantucket’s earliest Native American settlers. First crafted with woven bottoms, the utilitarian baskets evolved into coveted works of art in the 1850s when the captains of lightships (boats that functioned as lighthouses in deep waters) adopted the skill during long hours at sea. A small number of weavers still practice the tradition on the island. Here, we gathered finds from all three eras of Nantucket baskets.
1. Lightship Baskets
Crafted by hand from wood ribs and a solid pine base, and woven with rattan strips, the earliest of these baskets are one-of-a-kind treasures. Depending on their quality, and whether or not they are signed and dated by the lightshipmen who made them, early baskets go for around $1,000 and upwards of several thousand dollars.
2. Friendship Baskets
Originating in the 1940s with Filipino basket maker José Formoso Reyes, the Nantucket friendship basket became a fashionable accessory when Reyes worked with Charles Sayle, who added decorative carvings on the lids. A Reyes-crafted basket in great condition starts around $4,500.
3. Woven Baskets
Because of the plethora of basket weavers in New England in the 19th century, it can be hard to authenticate whether a basket prior to the lightship era was in fact made on Nantucket. Accordingly, most 1800s baskets are labeled “New England;” you can find ones in good condition for a few hundred dollars.
Interested in starting a collection of your own? Find baskets like these at antiques stores and collector sites such as Dig Antiques, Nantucket Antiques Depot, Paul Madden Antiques, and Sylvia Antiques.
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