Paul Whitten retired to Nantucket in 1965 after a long career as an elementary school principal. The artist gave talks about the island to tourists, highlighting the unique crafts being produced there, and always mentioned the baskets made by Jose Formoso Reyes, a Filipino artist working on the island. Reyes was so grateful for the recognition that he taught Whitten his craft. Whitten referred to his work as "friendship baskets," because of the relationship that evolved between the artist and his customers. He worked until he was seventy-eight years old, making more than two thousand baskets over a thirty-year period.