Remembering Priscilla Henderson - A Tribute

Today marks six years since fiber artist Priscilla Henderson died at her home in Guilford, Connecticut on August 7, 2004. She was 62. Her work was recognized nationally and is included in many private collections and museums, including the Rhode Island School of Design, Wustum Museum, Erie Museum and the Jack Lenor Larsen private collection. She was featured in many publications including numerous profiles in FIBERARTS and American Craft Magazine.

Under Lock and Key - Open form with male and female designations and separate key - 13" x 11" 6.5"

Working in concert with her husband Lee, various woodworking techniques including marquetry, turning, carving and finishing were combined with basketry techniques. Her designs and their blended talents in execution developed a cohesive style and a body of work that was truly her own. In addition to the high level craftsmanship there is a component of commentary on gender and other issues in society in her pieces.

Maternity - Boat-like figure with open "arms" and 3 small baskets - 11" x 11' x 24"
Artists Statement

"The baskets I make are considered to fall in the category of contemporary work. Within that category I see two types of baskets - I make baskets that are all about form and good craftsmanship as well - and I make baskets that show concern about a particular topic, for instance a dowry basket which addresses the responsibilities of women within the framework of marriage, or a tea set which deals with issues surrounding the safety and anonymity of women in a modern world. I have made baskets which deal with 'Feeding America - the Industrial Way' of 'Women as Menders' both of these approaches combined make up the body of work I think of as my own."

Feeding America - The Industrial Way - 10" x 25" x 18"

Feeding America - The Industrial Way was a commentary on the corporate methods of farming and her disdain for it. The fish on the plate is served from the tin, the drink is a Diet Coke, hardly the food served by our forefathers. Priscilla's other pieces had titles such as "Good Bones", "The Dowry Basket", "Woman as Mender" and "Black and Blue" all reflecting her interest in gender issues and women's studies.

Open Square - Four sided open, woven cube with handle - 12" x 9" x 9"

Priscilla submitted this Artists' Statement with her entry to an exhibit of Northeast Basketmakers I curated shortly before her passing at the University of Connecticut.

"Soon it will be 20 years of making baskets, I see the clear division of the work through all that time - the pieces made for the pure celebration of form, and those reflecting social issue...simple as that. Both arenas remain justifiable to me as a basis from making a piece, whether it is a series on 'courting the cube', the universal appeal of bowls and soaring curves -- or the cultural implications for women in the current century. All along the way, craftmanship and aesthetic appeal have been fundamental in shaping my career, those centerpoints from which a contribution to the rich legacy of the handmade might be made."

Black and Blue - Dedicated to Anna Quindlin's book Black and Blue which addresses the issue of domestic violence - 11" x 11" x 2"

I had the pleasure of working with Priscilla on several projects including exhibits and publications. She was the consummate professional in each of those instances. I wish I had the opportunity to have known her better. Her work and her life made a lasting impression on me. American basketry lost someone important that day in 2004. She is gone too soon, but not forgotten. My sincere and continuing condolences to her friends and family.

This catalog of the Jack Lenor Larson exhibit considered pivotal in her career is still available. The Tactile Vessel: New Basket Forms : An Exhibition of Works from the Collection of the Erie Art Museum

For much more on additional American basket artists, visit BasketMakers.com and please share your recollections of Priscilla in the comments section.

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