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Giffins create authentic works inspired by American history

By Staff | Jul 2, 2009

Both originally from Massachusetts, Nancy and Bill Giffin moved to Naples in 1992, bringing with them the traditional craft of Nantucket basket weaving and Shaker box-making.

When these talented Bay Staters aren’t painstakingly crafting these authentic and aesthetically pleasing baskets, Nancy works for Harris Private Bank in Naples and Bill bartends for Cedar Hammock Country Club.

Giffin said that she has been been crocheting and doing counted cross stitch and embroidery since she was a teenager, but she and her husband – who works with Nancy on her various projects – shifted at full speed into the basket and box business after a lucky find in Arkansas.

“Bill and I worked for an antique auction house that bought and sold antiques for over 10 years when we lived up north. We have always loved the creativity, simplicity and beauty of the Shaker furniture and their oval boxes, which were made in a wide range of sizes for household and workshop use,” Giffin said, noting that the boxes were used to store dried herbs, spices, thread, buttons, nails, medicines – anything but liquids.

“We moved to Hot Springs Village, Ark. for a brief period a few years ago and were lucky enough to find a whole workshop of Shaker oval box materials, molds and band templates at an estate sale,” Giffin said.

But the luck didn’t end there.

“In 2007, we were able to attend one of the only workshops in the United States that taught the procedures on making Shaker oval boxes,” she said.

“I also had the opportunity to go to New Hampshire and receive one-on-one training with one of the foremost authorities on Shaker and Nantucket baskets, Nathan Taylor, who along with Martha Weatherbee wrote numerous books on Shaker and Nantucket Baskets,” Giffin continued, adding that during a recent trip to Vermont to get more wood for their creations, the Giffins were fortunate enough to participate in additional training with Taylor, during which they learned how to make their own bases, rims and handles.

“So our products will be made entirely in our workshop and a two room studio in our Cape Coral home, along with various styles of baskets (a lot of which are custom made),” Giffin said.

The Giffins’ baskets and boxes aren’t just beautiful and functional, they are the couple’s way of preserving and passing on a unique American tradition.

Giffin says she’s always been amazed by the simplicity and beauty of Shaker and Nantucket baskets.

“I love to create Nantucket and Shaker baskets knowing that they are pieces of our history,” she said.

“Our Shaker boxes, trays and jewelry boxes are made, for the most part, the exact same way the Shakers made them. We are trying to recreate and share a small piece of American History and hope the people who purchase them will enjoy years of pleasure from them.”

But beyond cultural significance, the Giffins also draw inspiration from the materials themselves and the people who mold them, noting that she and Bill are greatly inspired by the beauty of the woods and the creativity of the people who work with them as a medium.

It also gives the Giffins and opportunity to work together as a team.

“Working together, for the most part, is a growing process – learning how to complement each other and not get too involved with who is right but what works best and why,” she explained.

Giffin also has a flair for creating realistic, French beaded flowers and beaded embroidery, a talent best represented in her sculptural tribute to the ghost orchid, a rare and endangered plant.

From trays to oval boxes, ice buckets and more, the Giffins showcase many beautifully intricate and traditional creations at 2 Islands Gallery.

“We appreciate how 2 Islands Gallery promotes all of its artists, not just the well known ones. Although we have not had a chance to meet all of the artists yet, we look forward to meeting them at one of the upcoming artist’s events,” Giffin said.

To see more of Nancy and Bill Giffin’s work, visit 2 Islands Gallery in Chadwick Square at South Seas Island Resort, open to the public every day from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information about the gallery and their many talented contributors, call 472-5111 ext. 7633.