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Elizabeth Runyon

Totem

Reed, seagrass

69" h x 41" w x 15" d

2018

$800

Description: "Totem" is a tribute to guides and spirits. It is made in three pieces. My basketry sculptures are rooted in Appalachian ribbed basket traditions.

Artist Statement

Baskets have been made for hundreds of years, in all cultures. Frequently these baskets addressed a need, many were designed to make women’s work easier. Makers used natural materials readily available to them to create these functional objects.

My work follows and celebrates these cultures and crafters, as I make baskets from a material easily available to me: reed, a natural fiber grown and harvested in Asia. I may be able to simply order what I need online instead of gathering materials to hand but I work with a natural fiber in a natural tradition much as my ancestors did.

I embrace these women who used these objects that improved their everyday tasks. My story is their story. My weaving technique is based on traditional Appalachian egg baskets and resonates with my Kentucky heritage. The meditative over and under process mimics the rhythms of many hands before me. The artworks' basic shapes are rooted in history and place. The shapes and swirls reach out to the unknown.

Bio

I weave sculptural baskets from reed, in a process based on traditional Appalachian ribbed basket techniques. I am a Kentucky native and moved back to Kentucky last year, after living more than 30 years in Ohio.

I first learned basketry more than 30 years ago through informal monthly classes, trying out different techniques by making useful baskets. I was immediately drawn to the craft, mesmerized by the meditative nature of weaving. I also enjoyed interacting with other women from all walks of life who attended these classes.

In efforts to further develop my skills, I explored other basketry traditions through CraftSummmer classes at Miami University, studying white oak, Nantucket and sweet water baskets, and white oak traditions with Alabama master crafters at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. An additional summer workshop at the Appalachian Center for Craft in Tennessee focused on weaving with non-traditional materials helped expand my thinking.

Throughout, I worked part time and full time in various jobs primarily related to public relations, most recently as a staff writer at Miami University. In 2011, I was able to quit all outside jobs and soon found that I wanted to focus on basketry.

With time to think and time to experiment, I developed my own way of expressing concepts through large sculptural pieces. I have since been able to exhibit these works in many venues, including juried regional and national exhibits, invited group exhibits, and solo exhibits. Some of these venues include the Sarratt Gallery at Vanderbilt University, Zanesville Museum of Art (OH), Manifest Gallery and Weston Art Gallery in Cincinnati, and exhibitions of the National Basketry Organization.

It has been a rewarding journey that I still continue, stretching and growing, looking back and looking ahead.

The vibrant expressive culture of Kentucky is the basis for my life and work. I identify strongly with all things I grew up with: the food, the accent, the people, the rich green countryside and most importantly, the stories told and passed down through generations of my family.