For nearly two centuries, Nantucket Lightship Baskets have been a distinctive island craft. Lightship Baskets have a very particular style: they are woven with cane around molds and have solid wood bases and rattan staves.
From the earliest simple but beautifully woven baskets made during the 1800s by crews on the Lightships anchored around Nantucket, the craft evolved to use ivory and ebony knobs and ornamental decorations such as carvings and scrimshaw. Modern lightship basket techniques have been used in making many varieties and sizes of baskets, as well as other items including mirrors, handbags, tabletops, trays, bracelets, hair clasps, jewelry, and ornaments.
Judi Hill has long admired expertly made lightship baskets, collecting them herself and selling both antique and modern baskets in the G.S. Hill Gallery at 40 Straight Wharf. This season she was asked by several clients to sell vintage baskets from their private collections. It’s a rare opportunity to see and to purchase lightship baskets by makers and by weavers whose work is not often available.
There is a difference between “weavers” and “makers,” Judi explained. “Bill Sevrens, Paul Willer, S.P. Boyer, Ferdinand Sylvaro were true basket makers. They made all their own components: the molds, the bases, the staves, rims, and knobs…everything.” Weavers use mostly supplied components. One is not inferior to the other—weavers make exquisite baskets and Nantucket Lightship Baskets by both makers and weavers are in the G.S. Hill Gallery, Judi explained, “but “to me, there’s a difference.”
Alongside the large selection of vintage Nantucket Lightship Baskets, Judi also has a beautiful array by contemporary weavers, including Karen Palmer, Maggie Silva, John Kaminski, and astronaut Dan Bursch. Among the modern baskets she has on display for sale are trays with gorgeous inlay, open baskets with carved bottoms, classic Friendship Baskets with scrimshaw tops, nests, cross-body bags with leather straps, cuffs and bracelets, small baskets to hold watches and rings, and even exquisite miniatures that make treasured Christmas tree ornaments.
For more than four decades, the G.S. Hill Gallery has offered the original work of painter Gregory S. Hill, whose art is in many collections around the world. In addition, they sell many unique Nantucket gifts and are the exclusive location for jewelry by the Nantucket Pearl Company.
This week, the G.S. Hill Gallery is also holding a July Fourth raffle. Stop by 40 Straight Wharf to enter—no purchase is necessary, and the prize is one of island artist Greg Hill’s exquisite miniature original oil paintings, complete with a tiny display easel. G.S. Hill Gallery is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.