Bill Mackowski of Milford, Maine, has earned his reputation as one of the world’s premier traditional packbasket makers. He pounds brown ash logs until the wood separates at the growth rings, then refines and weaves the splints by hand.
When we asked him if he’d make us a packbasket, he said he would – and not just any packbasket, but a Jack Leadley packbasket, in the style of his mentor who passed away last April at the age of 90. Jack Leadley, from Speculator, New York, was an Adirondack icon; a craftsman and artist, but most endearingly and enduringly, a teacher. “There isn’t a day that goes by as I work in my shop that I don’t think of Jack and use the skills he shared with me,” said Mackowski. “I think of my work as an extension of his.”
When we asked Bill to say a few words about the basket, he deferred; instead, he sent us a eulogy he wrote for Jack last spring. In it, he recalls how when they worked together Jack would say: “always try to make the next pack a little better.”
I try to live by that, wrote Bill. Not just packs, but even days. Jack’s in a good place now. There is no emerald ash borer, no brown ash die back. And there are brown ash trees as far as you can see. Each one glows a golden yellow, and every tree is two logs up till the first branches and straight as a flag pole. All the splint is as thick as a nickel, and there are no pin knots on the south side of the logs. Sapwood is two inches thick and you can pound out ten rings at a time, and every ring splits like peeling bananas. Yep, that’s our kind of heaven. So Jack, get us a good pile of splint worked up, and when I get up there (I hope), we can make the next one better, for sure.
DRAWING: MAY 31, 2019
ALL ENTRIES MUST BE RECEIVED BY MAY 30
Since this is a custom-made item, the pack you win will not match the picture exactly. Bill is happy to discuss color, shape, and size before he begins weaving, thus tailoring contours and color to your size and taste.