Way in the back of the third room in on the second floor of the Grand Rapids Public Museum Archives, sitting on the floor is a huge woven basket with a dimpled floor. I don’t know what is would have been used for.
The rim of the basket reminds me of a wood boat. The bulwark is made from a sapling uniform in diameter for its entire circumference. The splints of the basket are made of hundreds of strips of lathing harvested at just the right time of year to insure the right pliability. The tension of each strand is precisely the same as its neighbor. The pattern of the splint looks just like petals of a fresh flower overlapping them.
The woven piece has a huge variety of distant cousins for neighbors in the Archives: a Kelvinator 4 burner electric range from the late fifties, an air raid siren from the cold war and hundreds of precise furniture extolling the high level of manufacturing of Grand Rapidian furniture of the late 19th and early twentieth century.
Most everything in that room was made right here in West Michigan. Most had design teams creating concepts, engineering teams figuring the most productive way the produce thousands of exactly the same unit, sale teams roaming the country selling their companies wares buyers negotiating terms for procurement for the raw materials. There were hundreds of people involved in making the same thing over and over again.
The basket maker learned the right time of year to harvest the raw materials, the right width to cut the reeds. One basket was enough for what the maker’s needs.
The basket is just right.
I am transplant into Grand Rapids from 39 years ago. I was originally from the Midwest & moved east & then back. I knew Grand Rapids would work when I saw there were no barriers in from of the grocery store- You were trusted with a grocery cart. You can go for 30 minutes, in any direction and be in four different mini climates- one of which is Lake Michigan and no land.
I have lived in the [Heritage] Hill since 1975. The old houses talk back & usually have something interesting to say.
I really like making things with my hands and admire great design.