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Basketmaker's hands: Herman Prince pointing a rib; Coral Bay, St. John, USV1.

Herman Prince, premier basketmaker, crafting a basket; CoralBay, St.John, USVI;1990.

melon basket. All the older basketmakers, and others who learned from him, still talk about what a fine basketmaker he was. One of his students, Herman Prince, has become today's premier basketmaker. He taught basketry in the school system from 1946-76 and still teaches a basket class once a week for the National Park Service. At the age of 76 he is still active and making baskets. Unfortunately, there are only three other active basketmakers. All are over 70, except Ralph Prince, Herman Prince's son. There are four "retired" basketmakers, as well. It is one thing for a fine basketmaker to come to an island, adapt to the indigenous materials, and produce high quality baskets during his or her lifetime. It is something different, how58

ever, for high quality baskets to be produced by many artisans over several generations. For that to happen, skills must be passed from one generation to the next; craftspeople must learn to work with the environment so it continues to provide the materials; economic conditions must support the time and energy the people spend making baskets and the cultural values must acknowledge the importance of the baskets and the basketmakers. The people who elected to remain on St. John from the 1860s to the 1950s created and carried on a culture that valued independence, self-sufficiency, community, hard work, creativity and concern for others and nature. Each fine St. Johnian basket is a manifestation of the craftsperson. It is also a testament

to the values and qualities of the society. Basketmaking not only contributed to the well-being of the people on eastern St. John, but also helped transmit their values through generations. Children learned to select and use materials with care and to value their work and themselves. The St. John market basket, with its beauty, utility and durability reflects this culture. And as the craftspeople who are still around today will tell you, they were happy. Bernard A. Kemp is an economist who specializes in the economics ofart and craft. He lives on St. John where his primary research focuses on the Living History of the Caribbean, a project which documents living crafts traditions and seeks to determine their viability in current markets. In the process of studying the St. John market basket he discovered the independent, self-suffiThe Clarion

Profile for American Folk Art Museum

The Clarion (Summer 1990)  

Collected with Passion • Flavel Coolidge Jr.: Case of the “Borrowed” Backboard • Discovering Thomas Skynner • A Case of Mistaken Identity: T...

The Clarion (Summer 1990)  

Collected with Passion • Flavel Coolidge Jr.: Case of the “Borrowed” Backboard • Discovering Thomas Skynner • A Case of Mistaken Identity: T...