Between caring for her two small boys (ages two and ten months) and working part-time from home, Erinn Baggott has more than enough to keep her busy. A couple of years ago, however, the young mother unintentionally planted the seeds for a budding business as she was scanning Pinterest for some basic storage options for her home. “I saw a basket that was sewn together and thought ‘Oh, I could make these,’” she recalls.
Her first attempt at sewing a basket was rough. “It had a lot of missed stitches, and you could pull the rope apart,” Erinn confesses. But she soon got the feel of it, and started posting her baskets on Instagram, eventually offering them for sale. In 2019, she began selling her wares on Etsy. “I just went out on a ledge to see how it would go.”
So far, so good. Using a sewing machine, the artist creates freestanding baskets and hanging plant baskets out of natural-hued fibers. She starts by coiling braided cotton rope around itself and binding it together by stitching the base with a cross, a symbol of her faith. Then she switches to a zigzag stitch, spinning the rope around to attach each row to the base. When she’s ready to make the edges of the basket, she flips the base up to create the basket’s sides. “It’s like pottery the way you have to form it,” she says. “But unlike pottery, I can’t just mush it and start over.”
Funny that she likens her craft to pottery, since both are nearly as old as the history of man. Before early man discovered clay, he plaited natural fibers together to form containers for storing food and other items. From those utilitarian beginnings, the craft of basketmaking has evolved into an art form.
Textures are what captivate this artist: the smooth touch of cotton, the scratch of natural jute. “If there’s one thing I just can’t get enough of, it’s clothes,” reveals the artisan, who studied fashion for a short time in college. Her love of neutral colors expresses itself in the natural fiber she uses, often juxtaposing the rough texture of jute with soft 100 percent cotton in her popular hanging plant baskets—a form that stemmed from her personal affinity for plants. “I try to be pretty basic in most things that I do. I’m not, as people say, ‘extra.’ I love basic, clean décor, and that’s why I lean toward natural colors.” Bolder tones enter the picture in the different colors of thread she uses to sew the coils together, and in the monograms and other personalization she may add to her baskets.
Although Erinn has no formal training in art or sewing, as she looks back now, she realizes that nourishing her creative self has always been satisfying. “[Making baskets] gives me a creative outlet to realize my ideas and make something with my hands,” she says. “I love to sit at my sewing machine and watch the baskets come alive.”
Out of her own fundamental need for places to stow baby paraphernalia, The Alabaster Basket Co. has taken shape. Even with occasional breaks from basketmaking, like her recent one after her second son was born, the Lord, she maintains, keeps leading her back to fiber art—back to an avocation that feeds her soul.
Erinn hopes to place her wares in local retail shops this year. For now, you can find her baskets online at thealabasterbasketco.etsy.com.