Saturday, July 14, 2012

Basket Maker Weaves Diverse Experiences into a Creative Life


Jan Dunn can walk her Golden Retriever Buckeye to the Haw River from her Chatham County home and studio. “The other day, we were sitting on the river bank looking at the rushing water riffling around a large rock out in the water,” she explains. “My mind immediately turned that image into a woven pattern,” she continues. Over the last few years, Dunn has purposefully woven a lifetime of personal experiences, love of nature, and supportive friendships into her unique creative artworks.

Jan Dunn in her Chatham County Studio
Photo: FG
Jan Dunn was born in Alabama while her Organic Chemist father attended graduate school. Growing up involved moves to Nebraska, Delaware, Ohio and Virginia, as dad finished his education and pursued a career. “Our family life centered on hiking, exploring and sailing,” she recalls, “always around nature”. She earned a degree in Psychology at Virginia Tech.

Marriage took Dunn to Florida and finally North Carolina with her ecologist/naturalist husband, a life again strongly influenced by the natural world. “I guess I played more of a supportive role and took advantage of opportunities to experience nature”, she reflects. “Our past-times were gardening, camping, learning about nature,” she states. “I loved learning about nature’s constant interconnections.”

Dunn enhanced basket
Photo: JD
Dunn works primarily in government jobs, currently at the EPA, in information technology, usually in database development. “I was searching for a past-time that would spark creativity, as well as produce tangible results for my efforts,” she relates.   “Baskets had always tugged at me when browsing in craft galleries, and my mother-in-law’s basket making gave me a gentle nudge.” She took a couple of short courses in basket making at Raleigh’s Sertoma Art Center. Several years later, she discovered basket maker Susan Laswell at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market, who weaves baskets made with beautiful colors and patterns.  “Under her tutelage, I was completely smitten with basket making,” Dunn asserts. 

Dunn’s creative life recently became more focused by a period of personal challenge. “I lost both of my parents, and my marriage of thirty-plus years became unraveled,” she reveals. “Looking back, those experiences pushed me to a place where I was more open to enjoying my art – I hadn’t realized how much I loved it”.  Dunn now meets with basket-making friends each week to weave and share ideas. “The influence of fellow weavers has encouraged me to think outside the box (or basket),” she quips.

The ancient traditions and designs of basket making have influenced Dunn’s work. Traditional weaving techniques are coupled with natural and unconventional materials.  “I enjoy incorporating contemporary twists into baskets and weavings, adding beads and found natural objects as well as personal mementos to add a touch of whimsy to the pieces,” Dunn concludes. 

Nature-inspired basket
Photo: JD
Dunn’s original designs are inspired by nature – colors and patterns seen in wood grain, fungi, and riffles in a river.  “It’s challenging to translate those impressions to a medium that is primarily linear,” she explains.  “The weaving materials guide the design, but sometimes, the basket ‘speaks’ to me to change the direction.  The predictable rhythm of weaving, and pleasing touch of the fibers has a meditative quality that generates a creative peace.”

Jan Dunn is one of the many regionally and nationally recognized artists and fine crafts people who will open their studios the first two weekends in December at the 20th Annual Chatham Studio Tour. Visitors from all around enjoy Chatham’s rural beauty and share with the members of the Chatham Artists Guild in the creative process. It is a holiday tradition, and an opportunity to purchase unique original art. She will exhibit in collaboration with her friend and fellow Guild artist Jane Eckenrode.

4 comments:

Shannon said...

Nice piece, Forrest and CArol-Ann. Great work and pix, Jan.

Mariah said...

A beautiful soul, Jan Dunn, and exceptionally beautiful & creative baskets too!

skyprairie said...

lovely interview of a truly lovely artist........I find your baskets elegant to the eye........... sharon

Kitty Mecham said...

Wow, Jan. Very nice pieces and what a great write-up, too!