Photo by Salt Water New England

Friday, July 17, 2020

A Reader Question for the Community: Nantucket lightship basket?


 A Reader Question for the Community:
Have you ever owned a Nantucket lightship basket? If you have - or still do - what is the story behind yours? 
For me, the lightship baskets are quintessentially New England and I had one in my 20s, which, alas, I sold for a song before leaving for New York in my early 30s (considering today's prices for vintage baskets, the purchaser was sooo lucky and I can only hope she's enjoying it or has passed it down to a worthy person who appreciates New England culture!).  
I would love to read stories of other readers' baskets. Thank you. 

12 comments:

  1. I own a couple of these but only one genuine one. It was my late mother's and has actual scrimshaw on the top and an ivory peg closure. It's probably at least 50 years old. I have it on the top shelf of my library with a couple of imitations (from China I imagine) and nautical memorabilia. It's charming but a bit unwieldy for everyday use. I'll never sell it however, it would be like selling my Mom!

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    1. They are a bit unwieldy, yes, but still hold lots of charm for me. If I still had mine, I suppose it would be relegated to being home decor too. I am also relieved that these days, scrimshaw is replaced by resin. In fact, I think I actually sold mine after I had gotten involved with an animal welfare group....

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    2. You're right most scrimshaw is resin or from naturally shedded antlers I'm told. JFK had a huge collection. Kind of reminds me of my late mother's sable coat. Can't bear to part with it yet I'd never purchase one. I have mixed emotions wearing it so it sits in storage a lot.

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    3. As I studied Anthropology and Archaeology in uni eons ago, I have a real appreciation for scrimshaw, which is part of why I was attracted to the lightship baskets in my 20s (and Nantucket whale lore) and other than that, any work done on whalebone, mammoth and walrus tusks, and antlers. Some of the best work I have ever seen were by the Saami indigenous people in northern Scandinavia. There is also a scrimshaw museum in a small Portuguese island called Faial in the Azores that I would love to see once.

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    4. There are some interesting examples in the Whaling Museum in Sag Harbor, Long Island. Nice walking town as well.

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  2. Many years ago I took a basket making course on Nantucket and have since made several for myself. Almost had an original Reyes’ once, but lost when the final bid equaled the price of a Porsche...

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  3. It would be lovely to have a real one as a decorative item, but not too great for daily use. Whatever happened to Bermuda purses with the changeable covers?

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    1. Ooh, I remember Bermuda bags, too, and loved them! I had a navy with white piping as the original cover, and then a couple of Lily Pulitzer ones for summer. Like the lightship baskets though, they are highly impractical.

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  4. My Mothers sets on a shelf, as a lovely reminder.

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  5. I'm lucky enough to have 2. My husband had a friend, who is a master basket-weaver, make an oval crossbody for a birthday gift one year. I also have my mother-in-law's oval wood handle basket. They are both out "on display", but I use them all the time. My MIL's is large enough for a wrap or light sweater, so perfect for summer evenings. Mine is easy to carry, so perfect for everything else :) Mine has a shell on the lid, my MIL's has an oval scrimshaw of downtown Marblehead. Both have the monogram plates inside.

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  6. I have a Nantucket basket purse that was custom made on Nantucket for me to my specifications. It was made approximately fifteen years ago. I use it occasionally, but the handle is loose and, consequently, the basket swings too much. The next time I’m on Nantucket it needs to get adjusted by the basket maker who made it.

    I have since learned how to make open Nantucket baskets. I have made two open baskets, and would eventually like to learn how to make purses and totes.

    In addition to those three Nantucket baskets I have another purse that a friend made for me. I also have two little baskets that were made as pin cushions. When I bought them they had muslin fabric covering cotton batting placed in the opening of the basket. I replaced the muslin with black velvet and placed multiple pins with colorful heads in the black velvet covering.

    I also have a small basket in the shape of an open rucksack. All of the baskets, with the exception of the purse made for me on Nantucket are displayed in various places in my house.

    When Lilly Pulitzer came out with Bermuda bags about fifteen years ago I bought a large one for me and a smaller one for my daughter. Whenever new covers became available I stocked up. I used it a lot when I first bought it, but not so much anymore as it became impractical.. I’ll go back to using it again at some point. A handful of Bermuda bag offerings from companies and cottage industries have come and gone throughout the years. It’s popularity is cyclical, but I think they are classic.

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