Thursday, October 04, 2012


I often wonder how history would be changed, if photography would have been invented earlier.  It would make understanding things so much easier~ there would definitely be no question of how a 17th c forehead cloth was worn, if we had a picture of someone actually wearing one.  Just think how many things you use each and every day, that you use until it breaks and then throw it away.....not thinking twice someone someday may really want to know what it was or how it was used.  This is why I love studying early photographs~ daguerreotypes from the early 1840s & 1850s  hold a wealth of information in them~ most of the time, whats large and in focus is not what I am interested in...its the small details~ perhaps what is in a pocket, poking out from under a skirt hem, or sitting on a table that I am absolutely freaking out over!

  Take this image from Getty Archives as an example~ tho quite large and wonderfully in focus, she is holding a gorgeous basket purse~ obviously. If you look closer however, you will notice something not so ordinary about her plain, unpainted purse~ it has tassels. I have studied this photo for years, literally. I have wondered all sorts of things~ like what made her think to put tassels on it in the first place? What were they made of????  Why haven't I seen more like it?

  Then I was asked if I would be interested in buying an old 'cricket' basket. Just a tattered old thing, falling apart~ do you want it?  Well YES!  I was excited because rarely do I come across a shape of these early woven purses that I don't have yet. Isn't it gorgeous? Its so very fragile~ think of the skeleton leaves one finds in the fall~ they have decomposed to their veins, and are so beautiful, when you try to pick them up they just fall to dust. That's pretty much this basket in a nutshell. The fragile open weave has broken in a few areas, its so terrifically lightweight, my hands tremble terribly to have to pick it up and move it for fear of holding it to tightly and breaking it further.
 My real surprise came when I got it home and was photographing it for my record file. When I turned it to the back, g*a*s*p.............I nearly fell over! Not one or two, but three remaining tassel loops are still connected to the points of the basket!!!!!  The third one, above, you can see the arrow pointing to it, illustrates my hypothesis that these were always fragile baskets~ the loops having been broken off in the period, and replaced with a loop of knotted linen thread.
 Once I saw the complete loops, I quickly looked at the points for evidence of the others, and yes, every point on this basket purse once had a splint loop for attaching a tassel to~12 in total, 6 on each end!

  One can get lost daydreaming about all the wonderful treasures this once held.  The hinged lid is still attached and in near perfect order, tho the 2 original swing handles are long since gone.  This basket resembles closely this next basket~
 Matter of fact, they were most likely made by the same hand.  Her basket has just 6 tassels, but at the exact same points as mine~ my basket had an additional bottom row of tassels to make up the 12.  Her basket has 2 handles, as did mine......
  What else can you see the same or similar? Look at her center row of decoration~ what looks like paint is actually wool embroidery~ the horizontal ribbing and foot are near identical to my basket.  Folks could purchase 'plain' baskets like this, then take them home and embroider their own design in the open weave section, and add their own coordinating silk tassels.  The embroidered section of her basket would have been woven in an even weave~ think of plastic canvas today~ easy for counted thread work.  Lastly, much of my baskets fancy woven rim is missing, but some parts are still there, and is absolutely identical to her baskets rim!
  I like this picture of the end, kind of reminds me of a bow of a ship~ there is so much going on, so many angles, no doubt woven by a master.
Here you can see a view of the two original splint tassel rings~ HEAVENLY!  Of coarse I would love to find a basket with the original tassels still remaining~ but until then, I am absolutely happy with this olde relic~ and the fact that I found a third image of another basket with tassels!
  What I find interesting about this one is not the shape difference, but that the basket is a small child's.  I wonder how long it lasted before it got sat on????????


Mouse Droppings Fine Folk Art said...

What an interesting story...I always enjoy reading your research on the items you have acquired...The basket is so intricate...beautiful. Cheers, Ssan

Sherri Farley said...

Wonderful post, I have never seen this type of basket in person. The look so delicate and fragile.