Sue Williams

White Oak Basketmaker

Sue Williams

Recipient Information

Location

Morrison (Warren County), Tennessee

Medium

White Oak Basketmaking

Year of Award

2019

Grant or Fellowship

Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship

Grant Amount

$0

Artist Biography

Sue Williams of Morrison in Warren County, Tennessee, is one of the last White Oak basketmakers. Basketmakers of Middle Tennessee, especially Warren and Cannon counties, produced the White Oak Egg variety of basket as far back as the Civil War, both using the baskets for everyday chores and selling them as commodities. However, expanding after World War II, shoe and clothing factories began employing a significant number of women who used to make baskets. By the time Williams first learned the Cannon County Tie style in 1985 from Estel and Gertie Youngblood, White Oak basketmaking had become an endangered folk art. Yet, with “baskets in [her] blood,” as Gertie Youngblood would tell her, Williams mastered the White Oak basket rapidly. Williams has served as the facilitator of the Heritage Skills Seminar for White Oak baskets at the University of Tennessee Extension (Clyde York 4-H camp in Crossville). She has become a pivotal advocate for the tradition, teaching the sourcing and making of White Oak baskets through individual apprenticeships and group classes at the Alabama Folk School, the Arts Center of Cannon County, and other venues. Her baskets have been exhibited and awarded at multiple events throughout Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee, including the White Oak Gathering and Exhibition at Western Kentucky University in September 2016.

With the support of the Folk and Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship, Williams will travel to basketmaking communities, teaching courses on the Cannon County Tie style of White Oak baskets and also learning how to replicate the basketmaking styles unique to these communities.