Ken Carlson | Porcupine Basket
Ken Carlson

born 1945
Resides in Belgrade, Montana

Biography              Statement              Ask the Artist
Look in the World Book Encyclopedia under "Braiding" and you'll see an example of Ken Carlson's unusual work. He's also been featured in the Washington Post and Connoisseur Magazine. Carlson's baskets are in the permanent collection of the American Craft Museum in New York City, the collection of the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, as well as various corporate collections.


Using copper as a material for baskets has enabled me to indulge my fascination for plaiting in a new and challenging way. The ductile yet structural nature of copper has led me to explore its potential for form by using the techniques of braiding and basketry. Copper's natural ability to take on patinas has allowed me to enhance the surface of the plaited form with color and texture.

Ask the Artist

Where do you get the ideas for your work?

From my imagination. From the world around me. From any and all sources, the infinite universe.

Do you work alone on your craft, or with others?

I work alone.

Do you ever teach, or take on apprentices?

No, at least I haven't yet.

What's the most exciting part of creating your works?

Taking an idea or concept and giving it form.

What's the most difficult part of creating your works?

The most difficult part is designing the piece so that it will physically work. The most difficult part of the actual process is the oxidation.

What sort of technology do you use in your work? Has the technology of your craft changed dramatically over the past 100 years?

I use very few tools. My primary tool is my hands, my only major tool. (My shears for cutting copper strips is over a humdred years old). What I do is not exactly traditional, so I do not know if anything has changed. I suspect not.

Do you have any advice for somebody just starting out?

If it feels good, go for it.

Can you share a "secret of the trade" with us--something nobody else knows or that you found out only after years of experience? Put another way--what do you wish somebody had told you when you were just starting out that might have saved you hours of wasted effort?

Fortunately nobody told me any trade secrets, there are no shortcuts, you learn by doing, only experience can teach you what you need to know, no effort is ever wasted in learning your craft, mistakes as well as sucesses are necessary parts. The learning process, it never stops.

What are we missing by experiencing your work through the Internet and not seeing/hearing/feeling/smelling/touching it in person?

My pieces are very tactile and though they look very solid and heavy they are very light and flexible. They must be experienced in person, by touch.

Akira Blount Wendell Castle