Thursday, April 1, 2010

Five Questions for ... JohnToftBasketry

This time our last interviewee, NaturesSpirit, is asking the questions, and Team member JohnToftBasketry is providing the answers! 
Q.  Of all the types of baskets you make, which is the most fun, creative, and challenging?
A.  Rib baskets are fun and creative to make since never do they come out the same shape. 
For these I often use "hoops" of grapevine or willow, both home-grown. The lack of uniformity in willow circum-ference from tip to butt makes for interesting, not really circular shapes as I twist them into hoop shapes. And grapevine has a mind of its own as to what shape it will devise for me to work with. Then after I have joined the two hoops with Gods Eyes, I add ribs, usually of willow again. There I can make a melon shaped basket by adding the ribs in a hemispherical shape, or make the cheeks of what observers call my "bum" baskets fuller or tighter. Adding colour brings even more creative touches.
For the market baskets, the creativity comes in the use of colour, the choice of handles, the textures and patterns I can weave, and the size variety that is possible. There is no end to the variety of this type of basket. It's always fun to see what the end result will be.

For sewing baskets, a basic pattern also results in so much variety in texture, and even shape. Will I weave a vertical sided basket, a barrel shaped one, one that slopes out, or something else? And what kind of border is suitable, and what type of lid matches this particular shape? Add in the use of colour, design elements, and elements such as bark and newness is always there as I make another sewing basket. Then my wife, Anne, adds liners of appropriate colour and texture to complete the baskets!

Lately I found challenges in making wicker models of hot air balloons. How can I make a rounded balloon shape was one challenge. How do I attach the balloon's basket to the balloon itself? Do I match the scale of the balloon to the scale of the basket or use artistic license in making the two not to scale? The three I have made so far are each similar in shape, but very different in their ending size, character, and shape.

Q.  When you are not creating beautiful baskets, what are you doing?
A.  I am a member of two choirs at my church, the senior choir and the men's chorus (Gabriel's chorus). That keeps me occupied with Thursday night practices as well as singing at the Sunday services. I do a lot of gardening. Our home has almost no lawn left. The land is either in perennials or vegetables, or willow and grapevine for use in my baskets. My wife and I like to bicycle on local bike trails (mostly following the path of abandoned rail lines). Our two grandchildren, aged 5 and 7, keep us occupied, as does our adult autistic son, in his forties. He lives in a group home, but we see him twice a week.

Vacations form a significant part of our lives as we trade time-shares for holidays throughout the States, and even to our homeland, England. Jogging and Wii Fit are also part of the daily routine.

Q.  I see you also have vintage items in your shop. Where is your favorite place to find vintage items?
A.  Anywhere in the house that I can find them. All the vintage items, sold and unsold, have been items we bought for our own use, that we are now selling off as we downsize. There would be more, but Anne has said "Enough is enough!"

Q.  What is your favorite part of having a shop on Etsy? And why?
A.  The intermittent reinforcement of sales is one favourite. The feedback from satisfied customers is another. It does my ego a great deal of good. And those so many favourable comments from fellow chatters makes me feel good too. Being featured in Treasuries is also a bonus that I enjoy.

Q.  I noticed in your shop profile that you have a twin brother. Twins have always intrigued me! Is your brother as creative as you?
A.  We both left school early, at age 15, before our 16th birthday in August. For both of us, continuing our education was of prime importance. He did this by enrolling as an apprentice with an electricity producer and distributor. Through this he earned the equivalent of an electrical engineering degree. I went through the night school route, qualified for university, earned my degree and became a teacher.

His creativity comes through his work with his garden and his allotment. Both are a work of art. And his love of the outdoors is seen in the many country walks he organises for hikers that start and end at a country pub. His holidays take place in France, where his colloquial French comes out. (During a freezing rain storm that destroyed much of France's electrical lines a few years ago, my brother lead a crew of British electrical workers that restored power to many French villages. His French skills stood him in good stead then.)


  1. great interview, thanks! ALways fun to learn more about our fellow etsy artists, especially since John is a neighbour to me and we've actually the hot air balloon!

  2. What a nice introduction to John and his shop! What lovely things you offer, John. :-)


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