Highly-acclaimed basket weaver Jeremy Frey is a modest man who lets his award-winning creations speak to their, and his, strength. “I make baskets and I’ve been blessed that people want my artwork” says the man who in 2011 walked away with Best of Show honors from the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market and Santa Fe Indian Market (it was the first time a basket won the top spot there).
Frey learned his craft from mother Francis Frey Toma, part of a seven generation family of artisans. “We lived in a Maine fishing town where baskets were a necessity," she says.
Frey is in attendance again at this year’s Santa Fe market, bringing a limited collection including some new cedar bark pieces and “an ash and cedar bark basket like I’ve never made before. My latest competition piece incorporates aspects of my previous winners, but has a distinct Southwest covered pottery influence.” To learn more about Frey and his creations, visit jeremyfreybaskets.com.
How long have you been making baskets?
I started weaving in 2002 when I turned 22 and walked away from a destructive lifestyle. I’ve never looked back as I continue our family tradition of ash fancy baskets, a form of Wabanaki weaving. I make an artistic version of old utility baskets used by fishermen, but refined into an art form. This ornate craftsmanship is based on tradition and no matter how I change them, my baskets are Passamaquoddy baskets.
What is your basket-making process?
Making baskets of wood and sweetgrass is one of the oldest art forms in North America with a lot of time spent in preparation prior to creation. I cut everything as small as I can make it and put as much work into the project as I can. Generally this is a three-month-long process of gathering, preparation, and weaving.
How do you view your work?
While I’m influenced by creative minds of all kinds, and especially weavers all over the world, craftsmanship is based on tradition and my visions of baskets are distinctly my own, based on the tradition I’m familiar with. I try to do cutting-edge traditional and don’t want to go far away from what my tribe has given me for an art form. I’m helping put basketry on the map and I love that it connects me to my people, to who I am. You have to value what you’re doing.
What keeps you going?
People enjoy what I do and that keeps me going because I thrive on the response I get. I get to do what I love and I want to keep things fresh and unique and not burn out.