Washington column for Aug. 2

Weaving Nantucket into Rappahannock


At Hazel River Arts and Antiques on Saturday, August 11, featured Artist John Bauer will display his Nantucket Baskets and handmade wooden toys, and also shared his collection of precise replica miniatures of Colonial Williamsburg furniture Courtesy photo

John Bauer, a noted artisan from Rappahannock, will be demonstrating his Nantucket basket weaving techniques at Hazel River Arts and Antiques on August 11 from 12 to 4 p.m. John has been weaving Lightship baskets for 30 years and has immersed himself in their origin and history. Here is John’s story:

Professional background

1964-1967 U.S. Army, 1st Lieutenant, Russian linguist; 1970 – B.A. Chemistry, Wilmington College, Wilmington, OH.; 1970–2000 Armco, Inc. (Steel company). Responsibilities over the years included environmental research, personnel, and governmental affairs.

Interests and hobbies

I have had a lifelong interest in the outdoors, including hunting, fishing and birding. In addition, I have been a hobbyist woodworker for over 50 years. My woodworking interest initially came from my father Jack Bauer and later from Fred Laughon the Baptist minister in Gainesville, Florida where I was in school at the time. Fred and his family were students of colonial period furniture and crafts which influenced me to develop similar interests.

As a result of this inspiration, I began by making furniture and small craft projects for our home. I have also made cedar strip racing canoes and kayaks, children’s wooden cars and trucks, as well as bamboo fly rods, a craft I learned from my father.

About thirty years ago on a trip to Nantucket, Massachusetts, I saw my first Nantucket lightship basket. With my woodworking background I immediately wanted to learn how to make these beautiful and historical baskets myself. I bought a book on lightship baskets in a Nantucket bookstore and went home to try to build my first lightship basket.

I quickly learned that making a lightship basket was an involved process but I leaped into the challenge eagerly. Since I had no formal training in making baskets it took a while to learn the nuances of making a quality basket. I find that learning process never ends.

Once I got into making lightship baskets, I became interested in their history. On a number of trips to Nantucket I made it a point to talk to long term on-island basket makers about their thoughts on basket construction and their history. It has been a fascinating story of how the baskets evolved from their somewhat crude utilitarian beginnings to the elegant works of art they are now.

The baskets can take many forms and be as elegantly decorated as can be imagined, however I prefer the more classical look to the art form. As a result, I have avoided such techniques as micro-weaving and over decorating with accouterments.

Also on the schedule for Hazel River’s celebration in August is Hans Gerhardt with Abstract Paintings and Sculpture, and a book signing by Ted Pellegata of “Virginia’s Blue Ridge: A Pictorial Journey,” 12 to 5 p.m.

Divine Swine BBQ will be pulling up from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., so follow your nose.

Hazel River Arts and Antiques opened in January 2018 at 12625 Lee Hwy in Washington, and provides studio and display space for artists, antique vendors and consignors. For information on rooms, booths and spaces for rent, contact hrartandantiques@gmail.com Hazel River Arts & Antiques, is pleased to be on the Rappahannock County Artisan Trail.

Family reunion

The reunion of the Smoot’s and Clatterbuck families will take place on Saturday, Aug. 11, at 11 a.m. at the Recreational Park in Washington. Please bring a dish and a drink to share.