Beyond Books: Community ArtShare exhibits are back

T.B. Scott Library presents “Baskets Galore and More” by Cindy Leskey



Cindy Leskey’s unique pine needle basket designs incorporate many organic and found items, such as this one that uses an antler as an integral part of the design. Submitted photo.

Cindy Leskey, a longtime resident of Merrill, says she has always been interested in creative and artistic endeavors, including (but not limited to) painting, sewing, and miscellaneous craft projects, said a recent press release from the T.B. Scott Library announcing the return of ArtShare exhibits to the facility.

Now Leskey’s passion is creating stunning handmade pine needle baskets. Though fairly new to the world of pine needle basketry, her creative designs make a statement and intrigue crafters, artists, and viewers alike.

“A friend, Carol Schlintz, introduced me to this craft five years ago,” Leskey said when asked how she got started. “She winters in Florida and would harvest the needles, bringing several totes back to Wisconsin.”

A 12″ ruler beside harvested pine needles from Florida shows the length of the needles Leskey uses to make baskets. Submitted photo.

Leskey uses loblolly and long leaf pine needles that are 12-15” in length to create her pine needle baskets. Some are woven using the natural color of the needles, but in most cases, she and her friend would hand dye the needles to create brilliant colors.

Originally, Leskey and Schlintz “Camped at the same campground and would spend several weekends dyeing the needles and pouring the resin bases,” Leskey said, “then splitting our work.”

“Since then, Carol now resides in Florida full-time,” Leskey said. Now … “My neighbors visit Florida every year and harvest needles for me to dye myself.”

Leskey said she never knows what the finished product will look like until she completes the last stitch.

Each of her baskets are unique and designed using organic materials and reclaimed jewelry, beads, buttons, and keepsakes, mostly found at second-hand stores and garage sales. The bases are sealed with polyurethane or set in resin.

Leskey hand dyes pine needles to brilliant colors for her basketry. Submitted photo.

Leskey has also expanded to rope baskets made with clothesline, fabric, and trinkets. Each basket is one-of-a-kind.

Leskey’s baskets are now on exhibit, entitled “Baskets Galore and More,” at the T.B. Scott Library until March 31, 2022.

Local artists and collectors are encouraged to contact Donna at the T.B. Scott Library to learn more about future displays and opportunities.

Another of Leskey’s one-of-a-kind pine needle baskets incorporates jewelry pieces and beads, natural needles, and hand-dyed needles in its artistry. Her baskets are now on display at the T.B. Scott Library until March 31, 2022. Submitted photo.

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