Watchmen stationed on lightships guarding the shoals off Nantucket Island created the unique design of Nantucket baskets in the 1850’s.  They cut grooves into the edge of the solid wood cores used in the bottoms and lids to hold wood staves.  They bolted the cores to wooden molds so they could bend the staves into the shape of the baskets, then wove the basket bodies with cane.  They sandwiched the top of the staves between two strips of rounded oak to create the rims, which they riveted together with brass escutcheon pins.  Next, they hid the gap between the oak rim strips under a cane cap and lashed it in place with more cane.  They finished by sealing the sturdy work basket with shellac.

   The original creators, including William Appleton, Thomas Barrally, Oliver Coffin, Joseph Fisher, and Captain David Ray, could make these very labor-intensive baskets because they had long off-duty hours to fill on their four-month-long lightship tours.  Many of their sturdy baskets have survived for a century and a half and now even simple ones can sell for thousands of dollars.

   Today, because of the time and effort needed to create them, beyond being sturdy, Nantucket baskets must be works of art.  It is my ambition in creating these beautiful baskets that families will continue the legacy and pass these baskets from generation to generation.

                                                                                                        Stephen Goettsch

The Origin of Nantucket Baskets