How did you decide on your shop name?
The decision to use JohnToftBasketry as my shop name was made in a momemnt of non-inspiration. I had to find a name, not used by others, when registering my business in Ontario. The muse was not with me. So I made the prosaic choice of my name plus the indication of what the business was about, basketry. When it came to my etsy shop choice of name, I used my existing business name.
When did you start making baskets?
My introduction to basket-making came as a child in elementary school in England. There, in arts and crafts, the class was introduced to basket-making. My twin brother and I were so fascinated, we went at this craft competatively, as in all things. We competed so much the school almost ran out of basketry supplies. A few years before I retired I said to my wife, Anne, "I should do something else when I retire other than golf and garden. I made a basket once." Anne listened and a book on basket-making appeared under the Christmas tree. This was twelve to fifteen years ago. I have not looked back since.
What materials do you use and how do you decide on a design?
I use homegrown willow and grapevine for the structures of my rib baskets, and weave with rattan cane imported from China and Indonesia. I make three major types of baskets that combine English basket-making techniques and North American ones. The sewing baskets reflect English traditions while the rib baskets and market baskets reflect North American traditions.
For design elements I use ideas from the collection of books on basket-making I have made over the years, plus an inspirational book, "500 baskets" that shows a huge array of designer baskets from around the world.I like to combine different textural elements with the varying weave patterns and use my colour sense to bring whimsey and elegance to what I make.
What or who inspires you?
Inspiration comes from the comments made by people who see my work at studio tours, exhibitions and in chat rooms in etsy. Inspiration also comes from people I meet at the meetings of the Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners Guild, and the basket-makers I meet when we visit other places in North America and England.
Do you have a day job?
I do not have a day job. I retired from teaching high school in 1998.
What is the item in your shop you enjoyed making the most?
Most recently the items I most enjoyed making are the "kits" so that others may be exposed to beginning basket-making. I enjoyed putting the kits together and adding to my blog of June 9th an eight section tutorial, with photographs, showing how to make the tray baskets. As a general rule, the item I like most is the last one I worked on. Anne's favourites are the sewing baskets, to which she adds the liners.