Rope Tricks: Not Your Average Basket


Rope Tricks: Not Your Average Basket

July 17, 2012
Photo by: Courtesy Doug Johnston/Michael Popp

The Hawla utility tote ($225) and the bifurcated Torse vessel ($200) are handmade out of cotton rope.

Some of Doug Johnston’s colorful stitched-rope pieces have obvious uses in the garden. His deep, long-handled bags look like perfect garden totes. The fresh colors of his coiled trivets and trays will definitely brighten up outdoor parties, and we could tuck a plant into one of his small baskets. It’s the odder pieces, like his beguiling 2-foot-high Dunce Bag or the marsupiallike Murzu, that have us thinking creatively. Johnston developed his quirky style by combining rudiments of venerable Japanese basket-making he learned from his wife, by watching YouTube videos of rope stitching, and from his own training as an architect. “I realized I could get the color from the thread,” says Johnston, who has been selling his wares online since October. “Having the structure double as decoration is a big idea in modernist architecture.” The resulting pieces, fashioned free-form from single hanks of untreated cotton rope, have both personality and a keenly honed contemporary edge. The rope won’t stand up indefinitely to wet and sun, but his Coyote, Tripplehorn, and various two-humped creatures are tame enough to bring indoors when the weather gets rough.

This article was first published in Garden Design July/August 2012