In 2002 I was introduced to longleaf pine needle baskets as a craft of Native Americans of the southeastern coastal plain. I didn’t take to the form immediately. I had learned basket making in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and had made egg and potato baskets fashioned from thick grape vines and split white oak. Pine needle baskets, however, were very different. Even working with pine needles proved difficult. They resist bending, break easily and are as sharp as, well, needles. And making a pine needle basket takes hours, days, weeks of work and patience. Learning to make a pine needle basket was as difficult for me as it was adjusting to living in the southeastern coastal plain, a place of relentless summer heat, bothersome gnats, and sandy soil. It wasn’t until I began to learn about and appreciate the coastal plain, and the unique longleaf pine ecosystem in particular, that I was able to find expression in longleaf pine needle baskets.
I have always been interested in weaving as a metaphor for how we shape and are shaped by the different threads of our lives – self, family, work, community – and our natural surroundings. I have tried to find expression for that metaphor through longleaf pine needle baskets. Recently, I have been using the techniques of longleaf pine basketry to create sculptures that I hope extend that metaphor even further to evoke a sense of place. My writing, too, finds expression through weaving -- bringing together different ideas and stories about people and place and letting those elements move in and out of the narrative. This is particularly true in my current project, a book about my family. The book is a series of independent essays centering on my father, George Tames, chief photographer for the Washington Bureau of The New York Times for more than 40 years. His career spanned presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to George H. W. Bush. Many of his images have become iconic– are part of our collective memory of a certain time or place in American history. The essays explore my father’s personal and professional lives and the impact of his photography on our family.
I'm no longer at Kobo Gallery, but my work is still for sale -- just contact me. In Savannah my work can be seen at Hotel Indigo.