McMinnville Basketmakers Offer Public Demonstration

By Dane Everts-Boehm, Folklife Program Assistant –

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Sue Williams shows how to make the “Cannon County Tie.”

A master and apprentice team from the Tennessee Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program will be demonstrating white oak basketmaking in McMinnville on March 14, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Master white oak basketmaker Sue Williams of McMinnville, along with her apprentice Brenda Kucharski, have been invited to display and demonstrate their rare and endangered folk craft at the Warren County Administrative Building201 Locust Street, in McMinnville. Williams and Kucharski will be demonstrating in the lobby, accompanied by a documentary photograph exhibit of their work together and a basket display. Attendance to this special Tennessee Folklife demonstration is free and open to the public.

Williams and Kucharski have also been invited to give a presentation for McMinnville’s Family and Community Visitation Day, an invitation-only event that will take place in the same building on March 14, starting at 10:00 a.m.

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One of the baskets Sue Williams has made during the Apprenticeship Program, in order to demonstrate technique and process to Brenda Kucharski.

Williams and Kucharski are one of eight teams funded by the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Folklife Program to pass down rare and endangered traditional art forms and skills through this year’s inaugural Tennessee Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. Williams learned her art from legendary Cannon County basketmakers 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 now tutoring her gifted apprentice, Brenda Kucharski. Already a talented basket weaver in her own right, Kucharski did not know how to select and break down a white oak pole to prepare her own materials, nor was she familiar with the Cannon County Tie, until this apprenticeship with Williams.

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L-R Master white oak basketmaker Sue Williams and apprentice Brenda Kucharski working on their baskets together.

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 seven teams at the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program Exhibition, Tennessee Arts Commission’s Gallery, May 19 to July 14, 2017, in Nashville.


Photos by Jim Williams.

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Brenda Kucharski working on an egg basket.