Lincoln Seitzman | Basket Illusion
Lincoln Seitzman

born 1923
Resides in West Long Branch, New Jersey

Biography              Statement              Ask the Artist
Lincoln Seitzman graduated in 1943 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a mechanical engineer. He served in the Air Corps during World War Two, and then joined his father's clothing maufacturing firm, where he later became Vice President in charge of design and production. During his 35 years in the garment business, he won many industry awards for fashion design.

In 1981, he retired from the business, and became interested in woodworking. As of 1995, his work has been seen in more than 35 museums and 12 galleries.


When we look at an object, the mind instantly identifies and classifies it. When out hunting this is fine, but when viewing art, the naive openness of a child is to be desired.

My basket illusions, that I create to celebrate the artistry of the Southwestern Indians, are neither baskets nor are they really illusions. But when they confuse the mind's instant identification, then that naive child in us can take over, and in relaxed contemplation receive the feelings of strength, discipline and love of Nature that emanate from this primitive Apache design.

Ask the Artist

Where do you get the ideas for your work?

From old Indian baskets that I've seen in museums and museum books.

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

Always alone.

Do you ever teach, or take on apprentices?

I've lectured at two conventions of the American Association of Woodturners, and written a "how-to" article for the British magazine Woodturning.

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

The creation process provides the satisfaction of realizing that one is adding a little of something unique to civilization's cultural bank account. The excitement comes with recognition and appreciation, as with being asked to contribute to the White House craft collection.

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

The word difficult doesn't seem to apply to anything you love to do. Exacting or time consuming, yes, but not difficult.

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 two different procedures to make two different kinds of basket illusions. The Apache Olla basket in the White House collection is a coiled type. In this case the 102 coils are formed on the lathe, and these coils present a problem of how to apply the black for the animal and human forms as well as the stitches, (which in a real basket serve to hold the coils together.) The flexible bristles of a paint brush are unwieldy in the grooves between the coils, so I had to search for a better solution, and I discovered that ink pens, with a variety of points, do the job very well.

I also make illusions of woven baskets. The only way I know to produce this kind of work is to glue together hundreds or thousands of pieces of woods of different colors into an engineered configuration so that after turning to final shape, the result appears as a basket, and if I think it necessary to enhance the illusion, I'll add inked "shadows." After I had developed this process for myself, I found that others were using that technology (newly named polychromatic assembly) to produce different results.

Do you have any advice for somebody just starting out?

You can't give the same advice to any and all beginners. I can only recommend what Joseph Campbell once said, and that is, "Follow your bliss."

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?

There really are no secrets in woodturning. Anything made can be examined and analyzed as to the methodology. And woodturners seem to be unusually open and willing to share their ways of doing what they do. Bruce Holly, a contributing editor for Art Calendar Magazine, put it best, an approximation of which is that is isn't the brilliant ideas that separate artists from the rest of humanity. A lot of people have a lot of great ideas that they simply don't act on. The artists among us are the movers.

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

When you see one of my baskets in the flesh, your mind jumps to the conclusion that it's a real basket. Closer examination provokes surprise and confusion as to what it really is. I suspect that this may be impossible to experience from a picture alone.

David J. Schwarz Michael Sherrill