The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea celebrates Basketmaker Jennifer Zurick who received the Governor’s Award in the Arts, Folk Heritage Award in a ceremony at the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion on Friday in Frankfort.
Jennifer Zurick, of Berea, is a self-taught artist whose work exemplifies innovation, simplicity and a kind of artistic excellence that occurs when a maker of masterful skill becomes one with the material.
Zurick has been interested in fibers since she was a young girl. She first started weaving on looms and then raised a small flock of sheep whose wool she processed and wove. She first discovered her material, Black Willow bark, in 1977 when clearing a Kentucky River bottom.
Her curiosity about this bark with its strong and flexible nature, led her to basketry. Her use of this bark is unique as there are no previous examples of baskets made from this material. Zurick learned to make baskets by trial and error, from looking at basketry books, by studying baskets in museum collections, and more recently in her world travels, learning from craftspeople and basket makers from other cultures.
Zurick’s first baskets were woven in a variety of shapes that were both beautiful and functional. Over time, she began using narrower strips of bark to create more refined and intricate weaving patterns. She developed new and innovative ways to spin and twist the material to create new forms.
Zurick’s journey has been one of inspired passion and dedication and whether her baskets are simple or complex in design, they are directly influenced by this unusual tree and its fibrous bark.
“The Black Willow tree, whose bark I weave, grows along the banks of the Kentucky River and I navigate the river by canoe to locate them,” Zurick states. “I am compelled by the natural beauty and integrity of this tree to create baskets with strong design and spirit.”
Zurick has earned national recognition including a United States Artists, Rasmuson Fellowship in 2010, and two Kentucky Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships. The Folk Heritage Governor’s Award is one of 11 annual Kentucky Governor’s Awards administered by the Kentucky Arts Council.
Zurick’s baskets have been published in four books and numerous magazines and she is a juried member of the National Basketry Organization, the Southern Highland Craft Guild and the Kentucky Guild of Artists & Craftsmen. Her baskets have won numerous prestigious awards and they are in the permanent collection of the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Zurick also gives workshops and basketry demonstrations throughout the country.
“Fueled by her inquisitive and creative mind and countless hours harvesting, processing and working with this simple material – Black Willow tree bark – Jennifer Zurick creates rare and beautiful baskets,” states Kentucky Artisan Center Executive Director Todd Finley. “From river bottom beginnings, to national and state recognition, Jennifer Zurick makes bark sing.”
Jennifer Zurick’s baskets can be found at the Kentucky Artisan Center and are recognized nationally. Zurick markets her work at some of the top retail markets in the country including the Smithsonian Craft Show, the Philadelphia Craft Show and the American Craft Exposition.
The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea is located just off Interstate 75 at Berea Exit 77. The center’s exhibit, shopping and travel information areas are open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the cafe is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea currently features works by more than 750 artisans from more than 100 counties across the Commonwealth. Special exhibits on display include “Get Ready-Get Set: Multiples in Clay” through March 31, 2018, and in the lobby, “Reveal: David Stratton and Trent Altman” through April 30, 2018. For more information about events call 859-985-5448, or visit the center’s website or Facebook page.
The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea is an agency in the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Photos: Baskets made from Black River Willow bark by artist Jennifer Zurick