Once considered the most prolific white oak basketmaking region in the United States, Cannon County and neighboring Warren County now claim only two remaining active white oak basket makers. Sue Williams is one of them. She states, “I am the only white oak basket teacher in Middle Tennessee. Years ago, white oak basket making in Cannon County was one of the major sources of income.” Williams learned from legendary basketmakers Estel and Gertie Youngblood. Williams will teach apprentice Michelle Hennessee the process of locating an appropriate White Oak tree and harvesting a pole from the tree that will be of quality needed to break down to get supplies (rims, handles, ribs, and weavers) ready to make a basket. Williams will also teach 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. Hennessee states: “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.” The team will explore possible exhibits of their work at The Arts Center in Cannon County and/or The Appalachian Center for Craft in DeKalb County.
Watch this page for updates on the teams’s progress.