Friday, April 3, 2009

Meet John Toft Basketry!

My name is John Toft. Several years before I retired from teaching in Red Lake in NW Ontario, I said to my wife Anne, "I should do something else when I retire other than gardening and golf. I made a basket in school in England when I was about ten. Maybe I should do that as a hobby." That Christmas I received a book on basket-making. Then I had to find a supplier.

My first attempts were pretty pathetic, but they got better. First they were gifts (sometimes welcome ones too). Then they were items auctioned off at my church. And then we moved from Red Lake, after I retired, to Kanata. There I began to explore how I might sell some of the baskets. Art in the Park, the Stittsville Flea Market, a store in Lanark village were some of the early venues. This was the period when a good day of sales meant that I paid enough through the sales to cover the table price.

Later I took part in studio tours such as the Red Trillium Tour and the Pakenham Maple Run Tour. For the last two years my sales' revenue at such events slightly exceeded the costs of purchasing the supplies and the entry fees. They still did not cover the costs of gas.

Then Catherine Gutsche told me about Etsy. I have listed my best baskets, and am awaiting my first sale. I have booked two show cases in the housewares section.

What I enjoy most is meeting people at sales events. Of course, I enjoy making the products and learning new techniques. Currently I make three different styles of baskets: 1. English stake and strand type baskets as in the sewing baskets I feature. 2.Rib baskets as in the fanny baskets that I make, and 3. Market Baskets that do not have structural supports such as ribs or stakes. The weaving itself provides the structure.

I am primarily self taught. I did learn how to make rib baskets from Ankaret Dean of McDonald's Corners.

Check the Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners Guild website ( if you are interested in taking a class with me to make rib and/or market baskets.

I live in Kanata and members from Ottawa and region are welcome to visit me at my studio. Its one lot in Glen Cairn with lots of willow shrubs and grapevine, grown for their branches not their fruit.

My shop is called JohnToftBasketry because when I registered my business with the province my creative juices curdled.

If I missed some questions its because I do not have the technical skills to find the questions again. Anne, my wife, is the computer expert in our house :)


** UPDATE** John made his first sale March 31! Congratulations John, we hope it continues from there :)

1 comment:

Louise said...

Hi John, nice to 'meet' you! I guess I just missed you last weekend, a friend and I did the tour, but the rain was so heavy we didn't make it to all of the stops and sadly yours was one that we missed. Maybe next time!