Maggie Smith is a contemporary basket maker based in Northampton. Maggie has a willow bed in Essex, where she produces her materials as well as garething materials from the local countryside. Employing a range of traditional basketry techniques, Maggie Smith creates modern interior pieces, including sculptural forms, large vessels, and baskets. Whilst much of her inspiration comes from the natural world, she enjoys experimenting and exploring materials that feed her creativity and drive her practice forward.
Maggie Smith is a contemporary basket maker based in Northampton. Maggie has a willow bed in Essex, where she produces her materials as well as gathering materials from the local countryside. Employing a range of traditional basketry techniques, she creates modern interior pieces, including sculptural forms, large vessels, and baskets. Whilst much of her inspiration comes from the natural world, she enjoys experimenting and exploring materials that feed her creativity and drive her practice forward.
Maggie Smith’s recent work is focused on willow, which has inspired a closed-loop approach to making, whereby every piece of the plant is used, from leaf to root. Maggie often starts with a sketch of an image she has in her head and then finds a route forward by mapping out questions and trials to be worked through. The finished piece is developed in collaboration with her materials, employing a range of traditional basketry techniques. In 2017, Maggie was awarded the Best Body of New Work prize by Clerkenwell Open Studios.
1. What motivates you to make?
I make to find peace from the intense clamouring of ideas in my head, and the barrage of questions and thoughts sparked by all sorts of inspirations. I love discovering and exploring a new material or technique. What can it do? Which material is best? Can I problem solve my way to the idea becoming an actual creation?
2. What and/or who are you most inspired or influenced by?
All sorts of things, both natural and manmade. From exquisite craftsmanship, to the natural world and the beauty within it, to the most mundane everyday object. All can inspire me and send my mind racing. Can I recreate it? How do I showcase it, and bring it to the attention of others? I have always made things and spent time learning many different craft skills over the years. I still find it awe inspiring what the human hand, imagination and creativity can achieve, sometimes in response to necessity.
3. What is your unique approach to your craft, and how have you honed your skills?
From a young age I have always been drawn to craft and making of all sorts. I suppose I finally ‘settled down’ to basketry because of the enormous range of techniques and materials. It alone could keep me busy forever! However, I don’t feel confined to only using basketry techniques, instead feeling free to access my whole skill set to solve my way through the problems my ideas throw at me.
I think my approach is very much one of problem solving. I often start with a sketch of an image I have in my head and then proceed to a map of questions and trials that I work through to find a route forward. I believe as makers we need to not only use and perfect our skills, but also develop and adapt them with our own creativity so they regain their relevance and retain their place in today’s society.
4. What is your defining or proudest moment as a maker so far?
When I manage to make something and it comes close to matching my original concept. The Willow Exploration Series allows me to explore willow and find new ways of using it to make my design ideas a reality. With each new piece in the series I am learning something new about willow and myself. If even one of my creations could inspire another to make and express their own creativity (as others have inspired me), then I think this would give me a sense of pleasure and achievement.
5. What is your dream project?
A project or circumstances that allow me to work in a way that truly feeds my creativity would be my dream project. This would involve time to absorb my surroundings, wonder and question. Or perhaps to learn a new skill or discover a new material. The freedom, to design whatever the experience brings into my head and to make and problem solve my way to its creation.
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