C. Elizabeth Smathers

Mixed Media Woven Vessels



C. Elizabeth Smathers

 Artist Statement:

“Working with pine needles has been an adventure for me.

The experimenting and learning process keep the work fresh and exciting. Each step leads to another and evolves into new directions. I started with pine needles in traditional styles and wanted to make the baskets have more movement and individuality. I cut wood in flat shapes and learned I couldn’t force the pine needles; they seemed to have their own mind. I experimented with gourds and then making raku forms to increase the potential for undulating forms, which are compatible with the pine needles, and I’m happy with the results. I love the “pictures” and quality of the wood and wanted the 3-D effect of the gourds and clay. Having always wanted to do woodturning as a child, I began thinking of incorporating turning in my baskets, allowing me to justify the expense and adding a new dimension to my work. Little did I know that turning would become such an integral part of my artistic creations or how exciting it would be. I consider my baskets decorative but they are also functional as they create a way for me to release my creative energy into new and unique artwork.”

The Process

C. Elizabeth Smathers creates these unique baskets using a continuous coiled basket technique, with one row of pine needles being sewn above the next, using various decorative stitches made with natural or dyed raffia or waxed linen. The patterns occasionally are interrupted by slices of nuts or other design elements she introduces to add interest and variety.

Elizabeth uses needles from long-leaf pines from Florida, South Georgia, and Texas which offer the optimum length to minimize the number of additions needed to create the bundles used in making the rows, and she uses short, fine needles for the miniature baskets. The color variations of the needles are determined by the amount of exposure to sunlight or by her dyeing them. Most important to the development of her baskets are the unusual forms she incorporates in their design. Some bases she has formed from shaped and fired raku clay or from sliced wood; for others she turns wooden vessels, or cuts unusual gourd shapes. Each basket, finished with a sealer to protect and strengthen it, is one of a kind, and seems to determine its own shape as it evolves–a single row often requiring an hour to complete.