The days of toting painted eggs and chocolate bunnies only in traditional, long-handled cylinder baskets are in the past. Pauline Asbury said modern-day Easter baskets can be any size, shape or color.
Asbury, a self-proclaimed basket case who has been weaving for 13 years, said smart eggs are using baskets year-round, as more people are becoming conscious about using natural materials. Her baskets double as trash cans, toilet paper roll keepers, key and mail storage systems, sewing pattern organizers, business card holders and more.
“It's the ultimate go-green before go-green was popular. That's what you used. You carried your basket around,” said Asbury. “People don't realize how useful they are and how much you can do with them.”
Asbury said darker stains of reed have increased in popularity over the last few years, as have accent colors such as chartreuse. School colors, like crimson and orange, are always top sellers for her business, Habasketry. Asbury is constantly designing new custom baskets that she sells across the state.
“I love selling at the (OSU-OKC) farmers market because I'll have people that say, ‘I need a basket for this. Do you have any this size or this shape?' And I play off of it.”
Asbury finds inspiration by shopping the different sizes and shapes of bowls at stores, and even collaborates with other artisans to create new designs. Her latest project is designing and weaving over a dozen trophy baskets for the Canadian Valley Kennel Club. For this design, she consulted a breeder and an artist to come up with an accurate silhouette of a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog. Then she asked a woodworker to cut the image out of walnut and ash woods with a scroll saw to make the base of her baskets.
“Everybody has to have some ‘me' time somewhere, whether it's cooking or reading, gardening or golfing, whatever it is, you have to have your own thing, and baskets just happen to be mine. It is something that I just really love doing and enjoy the challenge of different baskets and styles, and seeing what I can come up with,” Asbury said.
Last year, Asbury resolved to weave 365 different kinds of baskets and accomplished her goal by December. She credits her years as an elementary teacher for the deaf for her quick hands.
“I'm a very, very fast weaver,” Asbury said. “My fingers were used to moving after signing for 34 years. That makes a huge difference.”
Now retired from Oklahoma City Public Schools, Asbury is using her education background to teach basketry to adults. She teaches classes at Sandy Springs Farm in Hinton. Tuition includes all weaving materials plus a buffalo meal from the ranch.
“Some people make some really simple baskets and some people make some complicated ones, said James Stepp of Sandy Springs Farm.
Asbury also teaches basketry as a heritage skill at Spirit Horse Ranch in Jones. She includes styles with Oklahoma roots in her classes, but said baskets are as individual as their weavers.
“Baskets know your mood. I can teach a class of 10 people with the Cherokee double-wall, and no two baskets will come out the same shape,” Asbury said. “You're completely shaping the basket, and if you've had a stressful day, you can make a really tight one, tall and slender, and other days you can just weave way out, almost like a paper plate holder.”