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Donnie Ellison studied under Leslie Jones, a master basket maker, to learn the trade of basket making. Donnie noted that many of those that started an apprenticeship left after a short period to pursue other interests -- but he stuck with it. He tells how he was told about a flaw in his first basket and was asked to fix it (but wasn't told where the flaw was). Donnie rebuilt that basket three times before finding out their was nothing wrong with the first basket -- but if he didn't know that -- then he needed to learn that on his own.

Thirty Five years later Donnie is recognized as a Master Basket Craftsman.

Donnie uses only white oak (he cuts and hauls his own trees). He noted that only tree's growing on the North or East side of a hill are used otherwise the sun will dry the wood or the wind will twist the tree. Once the tree is cut, Donnie manually planes the board to the right thickness. From there he draws the strips using a device without the convenience of a thickness gauge (you just have to know what you're doing). With wood strips in hand he can begin the basket.

The particular basket pictured above is a Gizzard basket. There are two separate wells on either side with the center of the basket riding up a little higher. Donnie noted that this helps to separate the eggs and prevent them from breaking as well as allow the basket to straddle the donkeys neck riding above the saddle.

You can find many more baskets in the D. Ellison Basket Shop located in the Homestead section of Silver Dollar City (click on the picture above to see some of the baskets). Just up the hill a bit you'll most likely find Donnie working on one of his baskets.

"Put all your eggs in one basket -- and watch that basket!"

- Mark Twain

Picture Location: Silver Dollar City
The picture and writin' is approved by the Editor-in-Chief of this outfit.

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