Weaving a lifetime of artistry

JoAnn Kelly Catsos’ basketmaking has taken her around the world and to every corner of the country.
JoAnn Kelly Catsos’ basketmaking has taken her around the world and to every corner of the country.

JoAnn Kelly Catsos’ basketmaking has taken her around the world and to every corner of the country. But at home, in her studio in Ashley Falls, she still keeps the very first rattan basket she made 35 years ago to remind her of how far she’s come.

At the time that she made the basket, she was a stay-at-home mom “up to her eyes” in her children. Looking for a few hours of respite, the mother of three decided to try a basketmaking class offered at the now-closed Ashley Falls Community Center.

That one rattan basket wound up being all it took.

“I was instantly enamoured with basketry,” she said. “It was a relatively quick product that was useful. I mean, after a few hours, you could construct a basket you could actually use. I found that amazing.”

Six months later, Catsos began teaching her own basketmaking class and she’s been doing it full-time ever since.

For a while, she stuck to weaving with rattan, a commonly-found material in craft stores that’s a go-to for many beginning basket weavers, she said. Catsos soon felt confined by its limited sizing, however, and made the switch to black ash, a local material traditionally used by New England’s indigenous people and later by the Shakers.

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