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Basket Artist Sally Metcalf invited to premier National Craft Festival

Sally Metcalf among 120 artists traveling to Washington, D.C., next month

By RAIZA GIORGI Express Staff Writer

Apr 12, 2024

The third time's the charm for Wood River Valley artist Sally Metcalf.

She had twice been put on the waitlist for the Smithsonian Craft Show, one of the premier events celebrating the best in American craft and design.

“When I got the notice I was accepted, I was shocked and I never thought it would happen,” Metcalf said.

Metcalf, a Hailey resident, is one of 120 artists from around the country who will travel to Washington, D.C., for the 42nd annual craft show May 2-5 at the National Building Museum.

“I haven’t been to D.C. since I was 16. It’ll be so amazing to go back and get to have a few days extra to wander around and visit my kids, who live in Virginia,” Metcalf said.

Metcalf is originally from Burbank, California, and decided to become an artist because she loves making things with her hands. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the California College of Arts and Crafts and her Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Oregon. While studying, Metcalf was a floral designer. Little did she know that working with flowers and sticks would lead her to her true talent: basket weaving.

Sally Metcalf said weaving a single basket generally takes six weeks to two months.

“While I was getting my master’s, I was having lunch and saw some maintenance workers put a bunch of copper wire into the dumpster. I knew I could do something with it and got my truck and hauled it out,” she said.

One day while walking with her dogs, she found some bark on her property and decided to try making a basket with her newfound objects.

“It was horrid. I threw it away, and then in the middle of the night I pulled it out of the trash and tried again,” she said with a laugh.

Her husband, Eric, encouraged Metcalf to do her first art festival, and she cried when she won Best of Show.

“My husband is my most supportive person. He said I should stay home and give it my all, which I did,” she said.

Her husband suffers from dementia and is in a nursing home, but she said they are celebrating 30 years of marriage this year. They moved to the Wood River Valley more than six years ago to downsize and seek a place where her husband could convalesce and she could be nearby.

Metcalf uses big leaf maple bark for her baskets since she and her husband used to have the trees on their property in Oregon and it’s a durable material. The wax linen she uses for weaving is from Ireland, and she said she loves every color she gets.

“Making baskets is a great meditation for me, as I tend to bounce off the walls and have a zillion things going on,” Metcalf said. “I love making things with my hands and it doesn’t take a lot of space. I get music going and sit in a chair and work.”

"Making baskets is a great meditation for me, as I tend to bounce off the walls and have a zillion things going on."

It takes about six weeks to two months to produce a basket. She’s been making baskets now for so long that she can weave several at a time by moving from one to another, rotating colors and styles.

“I love to see people be excited about the baskets and expand their thinking, as a lot of people tell me they’ve never seen anything like them,” she said.

While she’s participated in many art shows and festivals in the past, including both the Sun Valley Arts and Crafts Festival and the Ketchum Arts Festival, she really enjoys the Artists’ Summer Studio Tour, where art-lovers can see her space and how she creates.

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