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The Art of Pack Baskets with Jim Abbott

 

With almost 200 pack baskets out there with Jim Abbotts signature on them, it had been about 2 years since Jim had made one. Cancer got a hold of Jim a couple of years back, and those of us who have first-hand experience with this disease know how quickly it can derail one's life or even worse. I'd say Jim is one of the lucky ones that managed to beat it, but somehow, lucky doesn't seem to be the right word. Jim is one of those guys who makes his own luck with incredible faith, strength, and determination.

Whatever it is, every minute with him seems like a blessing. Jim's basket-making hobby started in the early 90s when legendary basket-maker and craftsman Jack Leadley told Jim he would like to apprentice him. Jim, a contractor & carpenter with 2 small children at the time, certainly had his hands full but realized the magnitude of this offer and told Jack he would make the time.

I call this a hobby only because despite selling his baskets for around $500, Jim had more profitable ways of making money with his contracting business. He didn't set out to make baskets for money. He makes them for the love of the craft, the art form, the tradition, and the joy they bring to others. He mentioned a guy in Hollywood making a lesser-quality basket and selling it for five times what he charges. Jim's a smart guy, and if he wanted to, he could certainly find a client to pay that much for his basket as well, but that's not Jim's target audience.

Jim wants to see his baskets get to people who will use them. He'd prefer to see his baskets packing a deer out of the Adirondack mountains instead of pretentiously placed on the mantel of a fireplace.

As I spent time with Jim following the process of making a basket right back to selecting and felling a black ash tree, it became clear that if Jim makes you a basket, it is very much Jim doing you a favor and thinking very highly of you. Jim doesn't have a website or any social media. Yet his waiting list has about 25 names, and I don't think he's adding any more at this point. I certainly let him know I would be interested more than once, but he very politely avoided confirming my order. Although, I'm not giving up just yet.

 

In this film Jim wears the Basic Vest in drab green, a CPO in Lynx Pattern, and Al's Anorak in Lynx Pattern.

Article and film by

-Cody Bokshowan, Creative Director, WeatherWool

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