A Measure of the Earth

Nicholas R. Bell, with a foreword by Henry Glassie

A Measure of the Earth provides an window into the traditional basketry revival of the past fifty years. Nicholas Bell’s essay details the longstanding use of traditional fibers, such as black ash, white oak, willow, and sweetgrass and the perseverance of a select few to harvest these elements—the land itself—for the enrichment of daily life. Drawing on conversations with basketmakers from across the country and reproducing many of their documentary photographs, Bell offers an intimate glimpse of their lifeways, motivations, and hopes. Lavish illustrations of every basket in the exhibition convey the humble, tactile beauty of these functional vessels.


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Product Details

Copublished with University of North Carolina Press
Year Published
192 pp.: Ill (174 color, 5 black-and-white)
  • Hardcover: 978-1-4696-1528-8
9 3411 14 in.


Media - 2011.47.38 - SAAM-2011.47.38_3 - 88797
A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets
October 3, 2013December 8, 2013
A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets explores the revival of traditional basketry in America during the past fifty years through works by sixty-three contemporary basketmakers. Made between 1983 and 2011, the 105 baskets on display demonstrate the endurance of indigenous, African, and European basket-weaving traditions in the United States as well as interpretations of the craft by individual makers. The basketmakers represented in the exhibition work almost exclusively with undyed native materials—grasses, trees, vines and bark—that they have gathered by hand. Many cite gathering and preparing materials as steps that are as important to their process as weaving and acts that connect their finished products to the surrounding environment.