GRANITE FALLS — “My folks both liked to make things themselves,” said Claire Swanson. “If you wanted something, you made it.”
That very simple, life’s lesson led Swanson to her heart’s passion.
As a young mother, she wanted her second-born daughter to have a special Easter basket. So, of course, she decided to make it. She convinced her sister and mother to take a basket weaving class with her and she made an Easter basket for her daughter.
She liked it, and decided to make another basket, this one for a friend’s bridal shower. “Everyone there asked me to make them one,’’ she said.
She has been weaving baskets ever since. Swanson said she knew from the start that she loved creating baskets. Over three decades later, she can still say: “I just like making them.”
It’s the making that she loves. She said her favorite time is the time she spends in her workshop at her home in the Minnesota River Valley just north of Granite Falls. She hand dyes her reeds and creates a wide variety of baskets, each its own. She said she enjoys the freedom to create her baskets as she desires.
She makes baskets of all sizes, shapes and styles. They range from traditional egg baskets to more complex styles, such as Nantucket lightship baskets.
Jo Pederson, her friend and a fellow Minnesota River Valley artist, has watched Swanson grow in her art. It’s apparent, said Pederson, how Swanson has grown in both talent and confidence.
“She has it in her,” said Pederson.
Originally, Swanson sold many of her works by attending shows throughout the state. Today, she relies on the Internet.
Thanks to the Internet, Swanson said some of the best markets for her works today are on the two coasts. Her Adirondack-style backpack baskets are very popular. Some are purchased by mushroom gatherers, and some by artists. The artists like to pack their paints and brushes and head outdoors to create, she said.
Baskets have always been about function, according to Swanson, and she said she never loses sight of that. All of her baskets are meant for use.
She also knows the importance of that lesson her parents taught about if you want something, make it. She enjoys teaching others how they can make their own baskets, and periodically offers classes at the Milan Village Arts School.
For now, she is preparing for a busy Meander weekend. Her fellow artists selected her as the featured artist for this year’s Meander, the 16th annual art crawl event.