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Basket Weaving Artists – Asheville’s Matt Tommey Transforms Kudzu

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Basket Art & Kudzu Weaving by Asheville artist Matt Tommey

To most Southerners the kudzu plant is an ecological nightmare. Kudzu is a group of climbing, perennial vines that are native to much of Southeast Asia, and some Pacific islands.

Transplanted here in North Carolina during the 1930s and 40s as way for farmers to stop soil erosion, this coiling, trailing vine quickly spread out of control.

Since then this powerful and pervasive vine, well hated for its relentless growth rate (nicknamed “foot-a-night”) has been a huge problem.

Also called “The Vine that Ate the South” since kudzu vines have been known to cover up and choke hillsides, native shrubs, trees, empty buildings and derlict cars with equal abandon.

Which why the Kudzu baskets created by artist Matt Tommey seem so appealing to many people who have seen the destructive power of these vines.

Matt Tommey (4)

Woven beauty from a pervasive killer.

According to a feature story in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Matt discovered the art of basket weaving quite by accident when he read a book on the subject while working at his college’s library.

The book had wonderful pictures of baskets made from willow branches but to Matt the willow looked very much like kudzu.

“It was kind of one of those things everybody hated, and you grew up joking about,” Tommey said. “I had never really touched it before that.”

“Before long, he was harvesting kudzu from the lot adjacent to his apartment and dragging it back to the clean, modern building. His neighbors looked askance, but Tommey persisted.

He liked long walks in the kudzu patch and hours of working with his hands, weaving patterns from the pithy runner vines that splayed across the ground.”

The article goes on to describe how Tommey met his wife,

“She was the only girl that would go harvest kudzu with me, so it was meant to be.  Today, they’re married with a son, and Tommey’s basket obsession has become a full-time job.”

Unlike more everyday baskets suitable for keeping paperback books and magazines off the floor, Tommey’s art baskets are twisted vine sculptures – wonderful visual display suitable for decorating tabletops, walls and mantles.

We invite you to check out his website here.

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