Williams and Hewitt: White Oak Basketry

 

Once considered the most prolific white oak basket making region in the United States, Cannon County and neighboring Warren County now claim only a handful of remaining active white oak basket makers. Sue Williams is primary among 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.” Sue learned from legendary basket makers Estel and Gertie Youngblood. In October of 2019, she received the prestigious Governor’s Arts Award in Folklife Heritage for her basket making. She will teach apprentice and nephew Brent Hewitt the process of locating an appropriate white oak tree and harvesting a pole that will be of the quality needed to break down to get supplies (rims, handles, ribs, and weavers) ready to make a basket. Sue will also teach Brent 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.

Brent Hewitt operates a dairy business in Warren County and has an interest in heritage crafts and their history. Basket making has fascinated him since childhood. “As a resident of Warren County for my entire life, I have a strong sense of community and feel a responsibility to help preserve its history,” he says. “I would be proud to be part of preserving White Oak Basket skills and techniques from our regional history and passing that knowledge to my son and future generations as well as share that heritage with others in the community and beyond.”