The ins and outs of basket art

Basket artist Gail Halvorsen will demonstrate how she creates her artwork at an informal gallery event, which includes lunch, on Friday, Sept. 9, from 12:30 to 2, at the Wilton Historical Society at 224 Danbury Road.

Her work is now on view in the Burt Barn Gallery in the exhibition Hickory, Ash & Reed: Traditional Baskets, Contemporary Makers. Halvorsen’s contemporary Nantucket baskets are a distinctly American handcraft, harking back to the maritime cooper’s trade, which involves woodworking as much as basketry. At this event, participants will be able to see how the artist approaches the challenges of the art of basketry – materials, techniques and process. The demonstration will be followed by lunch with an informal question and answer session.

Gail Halvorsen made baskets in her New Canaan workshop, set up years ago with the help of basket-maker and woodworker Harry Hilbert. Teacher and student met in Hilbert’s workshop in 1994 where Halvorsen made her first “Nantucket” basket. Taken with the entire process of making a basket, she carefully selects her woods, makes her own molds, carves handles and waxes her finishes.

“I am definitely drawn to certain colors and grains of wood. American cherry and curly maple are my favorites. The type of wood usually determines the shape and design of my basket. And, the hunt for beautiful wood is always an on-going challenge. You never know where you will find the perfect piece — fun!” she says. Facile with a woodturning lathe, band saw, drill press and other tools of the trade, Halvorsen credits the generous spirit of her influential teacher with her love of each aspect of the craft.

“I find the process of basket making to be stimulating, creative and calming. The choice of materials and design forms are endless and the repetitive motion of weaving allows one to be present and calm,” says Halvorsen.

The cost, including lunch, is $25 for members of the Wilton Historical Society, $35 for non-members. Space is limited, register at or call 203-762-7257.