Maker of the Week - Debora Muhl

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Deborah is a self taught basket artist from Whitsett, NC, who uses the technique of coiling, in which coils of sweet grass are sewn together with waxed linens or artificial sinew. Her materials of choice are sweet grasses found in various parts of the United States as well as in Canada. All of the grass is gathered, combed and sorted by Native Americans. The grasses are left in their natural state for their sweet aromas. Many of these coiled sculptural baskets begin with an unusual cut-out segment of gourd and are designed in the process of their creation. The resulting basket is a free form sculpture.

Muhl began making traditional baskets in 1984, starting with a melon basket kit. It was quickly apparent to her that she had an affection for building vessels. In the first years, she taught herself many different styles and techniques in basketry - along with taking a few basket classes - and then began teaching classes in 1988. She also showed her work at traditional local craft shows. The teaching continued for 10 years, through which time she worked on her own work which started to look less and less like a basket. Her accomplishment at coiling became her focus and she then gained the confidence to apply to the finest craft shows in the country. To her pleasant surprise she has been accepted to many of these shows since 1995.

As the result of some of the publicity at these shows, Muhl's work has been included in many publications, private collections and permanent museum collections. She has won many awards for her work throughout the years. Her plan is to continue to experiment with the coiled form as long as she continues to receive that wonderful 'surprise' in the end. In Deborah's words: "Music was my first passion. It gave me a vehicle for expressing deep feelings and taught me the necessity of bringing discipline and clarity of vision to my work. Sculptural coiling allows me to create a kind of visual metaphor for the music of my life", she says.




Images, from top to bottom:

1. 'Blue Spirals', 2007, 10.5in high x 10in wide x 11in dia., Sweet grass, nylon/polyester ribbon, waxed Irish linen

2. 'Layers of Rhythm II', 2008, 24in high x 25in wide x 16in dia. with branches - Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick - Sweet grass, gourd, nylon/polyester ribbon, waxed Irish linen, jasper beads, branches

3. 'Princess' 2008, 27in high x 22in wide x 8.5in dia. with branches, sweet grass, gourd, nylon/polyester ribbon, artificial sinew, jade beads, branches

4. 'Gold Fish', 2008, 8in high x 15in wide x 9in dia. Sweet grass, gourd, nylon/polyester ribbon, waxed Irish linen, jade beads

5. 'Blue Wave', 2011, 15.5in high x 15in wide x 14in dia. Sweet grass, nylon/.polyester ribbon, waxed Irish linen

6. 'Collapse', 2011, 18.5in high x 18.5in wide x 13in dia. Sweet grass, nylon/polyester ribbon, waxed Irish linen (PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF DEBORAH MUHL)