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Farmington Hills

Published January 23, 2013

Baskets take on a new shape at City Gallery

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A collection of unique, nature-inspired baskets created by Farmington artist Allen Brown will be on display through March 1 at City Gallery inside the Costick Center.

FARMINGTON HILLS — Until March 1, the City Gallery, inside the Costick Center, will feature an exhibition of hand-woven baskets with a bit of a twist.

The baskets were created by artist Allen Brown, a Vietnam veteran and Farmington resident of nearly 45 years. Brown, 72, was named the Farmington Area Art Commission’s 2012 Artist in Residence for his work creating intricate, free-form baskets in whimsical shapes.

According to Brown, a dentist by day practicing in downtown Farmington, his love of basket-weaving began years ago, when he saw a flier in a store for basket-making classes offered in Plymouth. He learned the basics and, over time, developed a style that was all his own.

“My wife told me if I got bored I should try it. I think she was trying to get me out of her hair,” said Brown with a laugh. “I had a really wonderful teacher. I never really wanted to think inside the box. I wanted to make my own baskets, and she would help me with materials and structure and stuff.”

More than 10 years later, Brown said, his unusual baskets get more and more complex with each new creation. He begins each piece with a deer or caribou antler, which he finds from sources all over the state. Then he starts weaving — he doesn’t know where the design will take him; he simply lets the antler’s shape guide his work.

“I don’t draw them out. I keep trying to push the shape and see what I can do different with the shape,” he said.  “I don’t use much color because I want the shape and the antler to be the focal point.”

The baskets on display at the City Gallery took anywhere from a few hours to a few months each to complete, depending on the design. With all of the intricate work Brown puts into his creations, it’s no wonder he’s known around the state in basket-weaving circles as a master of the art.

“Allen dropped in at the Costick Center a little over a year ago because someone had told him that his baskets were artistic and he should show them to me,” said Nancy Coumoundouros, cultural arts supervisor with the city of Farmington Hills, in an email. “I was expecting to see rather usual basket styles, but was amazed at the talent and artistry in his designs.”

Coumoundouros said she was thrilled that an artist with such an unusual style won last year’s Artist in Residence award, and now the entire community can enjoy his work for the duration of the exhibition.

City Gallery is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and by special request. For more information, call (248) 473-1856.

City Gallery is housed inside the Costick Center, located at 28600 W. 11 Mile Road in Farmington Hills.

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