Kari Lonning | Architexture
Kari Lonning

born 1950
Resides in Ridgefield, Connecticut

Biography              Statement              Ask the Artist
Kari Lonning graduated from Syracuse University, intending to become a jeweler. She majored in ceramics with a minor in textiles--but soon decided to devote herself completely to basketweaving. Since 1973, she's been an independent artists, supporting herself through the sale of her works and through teaching. In 1987, Lonning was designated a Master Craftswoman by the Society of Connecticut Craftsmen.

Her work is represented by:

  • Brown-Grotta of Wilton, Connecticut, and
  • Sanora Collins Gallery of Birmingham, Michigan


Statement

I am a maker of objects. I have chosen basketry as my vehicle because it allows me the greatest freedom to work with color and pattern in a rigid form. Baskets are my way to make a personal difference in a vast, often impersonal, computerized world.

My work was greatly influenced by a trip to Japan. I found the tea ceremony there epitomized one culture's respect for taking time to pay attention to detail and for their appreciation of subtlety. As the tea bowl is studied from all sides, my baskets have changing design elements - both inside and out. My intention is to involve the viewer through the discovery of these, as he/she looks at the basket.

The textural pieces were inspired by a trip to England. I visited intimate villages, extensive gardens and informal aviary. My springboard was to reinvent the nest. To do this, I needed to develop a new surface technique. The "nest" effect is achieved by weaving hundreds of short protruding pieces into the structure of the basket. When these pieces cross, they blend together to create subtle painterly effects.

At present my inspiration is architecture - the strength and simplicity of Japanese courtyard gardens and the color and intimacy of English cottage gardens. Many of these pieces begin with an open grid and are double walled. This allows me to design anything from intimate courtyards to wide open playing fields. Furthermore, to keep the pieces from becoming too serious, noises can be heard from inside the walls when the baskets are handled.

I use a weaving technique where five strands of rattan are woven sequentially to create the "fabric" of the walls and a form of tapestry to weave in the specific designs. To imply a sense of weight and solidity, I weave the top edge back in toward the center. To further suggest a sense of weight, both actual and implied, I developed the double walled construction. I enjoy this, because in making vessels, I can draw on my training as a potter.

In keeping with my Norwegian heritage, I work in a subdued palette of rose, peach, lavender, blues and blue greens, and shades of grey and taupe. I use fiber reactive color fast dyes on the reed so that care and cleaning for the baskets is not a problem.

Since I think of my baskets as only one facet of my creative life, the excitement comes from being able to bring more beauty into the world, be that in the form of baskets or gardens or a state of well being.


Ask the Artist

Where do you get the ideas for your work?

From bits and pieces of objects or structures I've seen along the way. Details from architecture, ancient vessel forms, acorns. These come back to me while I walk or while I am working on something else.

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

I work alone except for my old English sheepdog, Barneby & cat, Dakotah.

Do you ever teach, or take on apprentices?

I occasionally teach in different parts of the country, not often though.

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

Since I think of my baskets as only one facet of my creative life, the excitement comes from being able to bring more beauty into the world, be that in the form of baskets or gardens or a state of well being.

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

Coming up with the inspirations and then when the ideas come, finding the patience to pace myself knowing that my hands can only work so fast for so long.

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

In my work I use an awl, scissors, knife and a pair of pliers, no forms or technology.

Do you have any advice for somebody just starting out?

Have patience, don't do it for the money, do it for the love of process and curiosity in creating.

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?

With age and experience life doesn't get easier. The more you learn the more you want to know. The more you accomplish, the more you know is possible. The reward is savoring the process.

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

You miss a sense of weight and volume. There is more weight to the piece that a "basket" generally implies and there are wooden elements, which make sound inside. Also - because the basket is constructed by weaving one basket within another, the viewer can't appreciate the architectural aspect of the construction.


John Littleton Dona Look