Basket Case

Trudy Dujardin's Nantucket home features an island icon



Trudy Dujardin’s Nantucket home (as seen in "Nantucket Blue," February CTC&G) is full of treasures—but perhaps not where you think. Lightship baskets, so famous in Nantucket that there’s a museum dedicated to them, pepper the house, from the Fred Ely creation in the living room, featuring hand-carved walnut whales and 14-karat gold accents, to the “Friendship Basket” by Jose Formosa Reyes in the bedroom, a piece worthy of a museum. In the 19th Century, “Lightships” functioned like lighthouses, warning mariners of off shore shoals or ledges. During the second half of the century, the most famous of these was anchored at the South Shoal, 60 miles south of the island. In this isolated locale, where boredom was a common ailment, many of the greatest weavers did their best work, even using a "production-line" of sailors to turn the bottoms, weave the staves, and finish the baskets. The baskets served another purposes as well: The sailors could pick up some extra money from selling them. At the time, tourists paid $1.50 for the smallest basket, and up to $50 for a nest of eight, and what a good investment that was—Lightship baskets by the most famous weavers can be worth $20,000 today. After 1900, the art moved off of the ships and onto the main island, and in the late 1940s, Jose Formoso Reyes, one of the foremost basket makers of his time, created the “Friendship Basket,” a cane woven basket with a loosely fitted top, and a carved ivory whale mounted on the top (one of which now sits on a bedside table in Dujardin’s home). The style became very popular, and is the standard for today’s "Nantucket Lightship handbag basket.”

photograph by terry pommett

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