Kadey Ambrose - basketmaker

Kadey Ambrose - basketmaker

About The Artist

Kadey Ambrose • Ester, AK

All baskets are meant to hold something, to carry or contain. Their form–whether berry basket or prayer basket–is determined by what needs holding and who is holding it. I gather traditional and non-traditional basketry plants, and post-consumer materials, from my surroundings to make both functional baskets and sculptural forms. In doing so, I celebrate the traditions taught by my mentors: to gather with respect and reciprocity and to honor the generations of basketmakers past, present and future.



Q&A with the Artist

Tell us how your work is made.

The process begins outside gathering plants in the woods, swamps and roadside ditches. Or peeking in rubbish bins and scouring thrift shops for useful flotsam. Materials are then cleaned, dried and prepared–which can take 10 minutes to 10 months. Traditional or functional baskets are based on techniques and designs learned from mentors across the country, whereas I take an improvisational approach to sculptural work. All of my baskets are woven with good thoughts embedded in every stitch.

What makes you passionate about the medium you work with?

I believe the practice of basketry can help us develop direct and meaningful relationships to plants, place and ancestral knowledge. This is especially important for descendants of immigrants and colonizers for whom the connection to ancestral knowledge was severed generations ago. Basketry offers a way for us to relearn how to be stewards of the places we live. And I am overjoyed by the sheer ability of human hands to make something beautiful and of use.

What is something unique about you or your practice?

I came to basketry via an interest in traditional skills and studied two years at Earthwalk Northwest with my long-time mentor Karen Sherwood. Years later, I studied basketmaking through the lenses of botany, ethnobotany and studio art at The Evergreen State College and achieved a BAS in 2021. In 2022, I completed an MA in Studio Art, focus basketry, from Eastern Illinois University under the tutelage of Ann Coddington. That’s all to say, it is possible to get a college degree in basketmaking.