Article By WC Women Create - Photographed by Kirsten Shultz
Basket weaver Sally Metcalf considers nature her studio and has long foraged raw materials — willow, dogwood, bark and branches — for her exquisite sculptural and colorful pieces.
Sally and Sara / Photography by Catherine Rousey
As she noted in her story in WHAT Women Create in 2020: “There is some question as to whether my work is basketry or sculpture, but I prefer to leave that determination up to the viewer.”
We reconnected with Sally recently for a conversation about her craft.
WC: A lot has happened in the world in the three years since your story appeared in WHAT Women Create. How has this time been for you creatively?
Sally: A lot has happened. … I work best when there are no distractions. The pandemic proved ideal for getting my work done. But along with that, I was caregiving my husband for several years and it was difficult managing time for weaving. Things have improved now, and I am back to work and really enjoying what I’m doing.
WC: In your Women Create story, you mentioned the seasonal phases of basket making and that winter is the time when you do most of your weaving and also start collecting willow and dogwood for future projects. Is this still the case?
Sally: I have a lot of materials stocked up for this year so I’m not collecting these days. I love collecting but I changed strategies and planted 100 willows in my yard with 50 more on the way. That should hold me over for a while!
WC: What is the most memorable compliment you’ve received on your work?
Sally: The most memorable compliment came from a basket maker that I admire. It’s the best feeling.
WC: Your pieces that incorporate bark are really intriguing. Can you tell me more about these?
Sally: My inspiration for most of the bark-based pieces come from time living in the mountains and near the ocean and scavenging, piecing together a story of the way I look at nature, all connected. The one pictured above has bark held together by copper pins that I forge. I weave waxed linen cordage on top which undulates like a creature in a tide pool.
The mess of threads is how my pieces often look in the beginning. I’m still working this piece, so nothing finished to show.
WC: What’s on the horizon for 2023?
Sally: The last few years have been stressful for me and my family. This year is my year. I am living alone for the first time in over 30 years. I’m going to take life as it comes to me. My basketry will hopefully reach new levels. I love the work so much!
Last year I was involved in writing a book, a novel really, for caregivers and it should be coming out this year. I am also on the board of our local art association, and I volunteer for our botanical gardens. This sounds like a lot but it’s not really because I love doing it. I hope to make a difference.