Skip to main content

Jonathan Kline was first introduced to basketry through the work of Shaker and Taghkanic basketmakers whose communities once resided near Hudson, NY where Jonathan was raised. Jonathan was struck by the holistic simplicity of the craft-how beautifully rugged forms could be made from native trees with a few simple hand tools.

In his early 20’s Jonathan traveled to Colombia,S.A. During this time he lived in a mountain village whose culture and economy were rooted in traditional pottery. There, Jonathan was further inspired by an existence centered in craft and nature. Upon returning to the United States, Jonathan endeavored to pursue a lifestyle that would allow him to become deeply involved in the elemental process of creation. In 1980 Jonathan had the opportunity to work with Newt Washburn, a 4th generation basket maker of Abnaki and European descent, living in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Washburn introduced Jonathan to the process of black ash basket making.

Now based in New York State’s Finger Lakes Region, Jonathan Kline’s process begins in the black ash and hickory woodlands that surround his homestead. Black ash, a tree that grows in isolated pockets of cool, wet ground throughout the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada, has been used by indigenous basket makers for perhaps thousands of years. Though Jonathan has been inspired by the traditions that surround this craft, he has developed his own techniques and relationship with this historical material and medium.

The foundation of Jonathan’s career has been the exploration or the artfulness of the functional basket. As Kline says, “I have always approached my basket making as the creation of tactile, sculptural vessels. I aspire to share my connection to the natural world and woodlands inherent in this process with the folks who choose to bring them into their homes and lives…” This sentiment is also true of Jonathan’s non-functional sculptural vessels which are as well, woven from the black ash tree, though utilizing different sections. “The trees that I harvest for utilitarian baskets must be straight and clear, but these same trees have sections higher up the trunk with knots and twists, movement that speaks of the forest and the deep ravines in the woods where they grow. The ability of black ash to be separated along its annual growth layers provides a material that in itself is inspiring. Year by year the story of the growth of each tree is revealed. When woven back together, the story is retold in another form”.