Aaron Yakim and Cynthia W. Taylor

Appalachian White Oak Baskets

2605 Cypress St., Parkersburg, WV 26101
tel: 304-424-6559

Aaron Yakim and Cynthia W. Taylor of Parkersburg, WV are part of the continuing tradition of Appalachian white oak basketmaking and there are very few people today continuing this traditional craft. Little has changed in the working methods of our craft which has been handed down from generations of basketmakers in the central and southern Appalachian Mountains. We make, completely by hand, refined rib baskets and split baskets which combine styles and techniques traditionally used in different parts of Appalachia as well as forms that go beyond these traditions The skill lies not only in the designing and weaving the basket forms, but also in finding suitable basket timber (a scarce resource today) and creating the basket materials. The dense hardwood forests of West Virginia provide inspiration for our work as well as the essential resource -- straight young white oak trees. After carefully selecting a white oak tree, we use hand tools (saw, ax, wedges, sledgehammer, froes, and a variety of knives and) to fell, split, carve, whittle and weave the wood into its finished form. It is the unusual strength and flexibility of Quercu alba (white oak)which allow us to rive the wood down to a single growth ring and create baskets that express than the beauty of the wood, the richness of the techniques and, creativity of design, and, at the same time, have enduring functionality.

Aaron Yakim learned to make white oak baskets in the late 1970s and with the fifth generation basketmaker, Oral "Nick" Nicholson of West Virginia While homesteading in Doddridge County West Virginia, Aaron recalls watching Nick headed into the woods with only a hatchet in his hand and a knife in his pocket and come out with a basket in hand. The simplicity and functionality of the whole craft and really appealed to him -- that was the beginning and today, having made over 2500 baskets, Aaron has mastered the art of finding good basket timber, splitting the wood, and creating refined ribwork styles.

Cynthia Taylor was introduced to white oak basketmaking in 1982 by Rachel Nash Law of West Virginia. With Law, she extensively documented traditional white oak baskets and basketmakers of central Appalachia (and shared their research through exhibitions for the Southern Arts Federation and Exhibits USA and the book of a co-authored, Appalachian White Oak Basketmaking: Handing Down the Basket, University of Tennessee Press. 1991). The variety of regional styles and detail work found on the old Appalachian white oak baskets as well as the skills, and stories shared by the traditional makers continue to inspire Taylor and Yakim's basket work. Born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Cynthia found that white oak basketmaking brought her whole life together: her love of Nature and hiking the mountains, working with hand tools, weaving, and the traditional arts. After living in mainland China (1986 -- 87) and seeing baskets so essential to daily life, she likes to make functional, finely crafted baskets which reflect the traditions of her heritage, the central Appalachian Mountains. Prior to her interest and baskets, Cynthia was a hand spinner, natural dyer, and weaver.

In 1994, Yakim and Taylor, began working in partnership. With each sharing their knowledge and talents, working together candles of their love for this traditional craft and continues to push their work to new levels. Aaron Yakimwas awarded a Fellowship for Visual Arts and Crafts in from the West Virginia Commission for the Arts in conjunction with the Division of Culture and History, while Cynthia Taylor has been a fellowship recipient and Crafts from the Ohio Arts Council They have demonstrated and exhibited at numerous regional and national shows and festivals including the National Folk Festival and the Smithsonian Craft Show. Selected for the Directory of Traditional Crafts and produced by The Early American Homes magazine, they are recognized among the top craftsmen in America. The baskets created by Yakim and Taylor have received numerous awards and are valued by collectors around the world.

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