Jane Tolar creates baskets inspired by Gullah sweetgrass and Native American pine needle baskets, both ancient traditions of coiled and stitched natural materials.
The materials you see in Jane’s baskets are long leaf pine needles and cordgrasses, the coils bound with linen thread or sinew. She enhances the art of her baskets by integrating beads, shells, and found objects from beaches, bead shops and flea markets into the design. Jane trades Maryland marsh cordgrass for prairie cordgrass with a basket maker in Minnesota; she collects some of her pine needles from the very small grove of long leaf pines in Easton and purchases the rest from Georgia and Florida.
Jane invites you to touch her art, saying “I would like everyone who sees one of my baskets to want to pick it up, touch and smell it. Imagine where all the various components originated and wonder how they all came together in this piece.”
Jane started weaving reed baskets in 2007 as just one more craft to learn. In 2012, she began to pay attention to coiled basketry, looking for coiling teachers and materials. She remembered that her mother’s oldest basket was a classic pine needle basket, so she found it and put that on display in her kitchen for inspiration. She coiled her first basket in the fall of 2013 and what began as a craft became a meditation. She teaches, takes classes and exchanges materials and techniques with other coilers. “There are no patterns or rules in coiled basketry and very little of the basic basket math required in reed weaving. Every piece is different.”
Jane describes her creative process this way: “Creating my coiled vessels takes me out of time. The baskets become a collaboration between me and the materials: the shape of the center, the weight and flexibility of the bundled pine needles and grasses, the variety of stitching and embellishments I use, are all part of the creative process.”
Jane invites you to examine the coiled baskets and to remember the love of the artist for her craft: “I want people to look at my work and see thread and straw and stones and beads brought together by my love of the materials and my excitement in learning how the simple materials create something beautiful and useful. Every piece is a lesson in something to me: shape and color to start, on to pattern and texture, then the bringing of it all together into a finished piece.”
Jane is Bethesda born, NC educated and 40 years on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She practices criminal defense and family law in her own firm, and spends her time in law, basketry, maintenance of her 100-year-old farmhouse and hot air ballooning.