For four decades, Clay Burnette has explored the aesthetic possibilities of coiled basketry. After gathering local longleaf pine needles, Burnette uses them in their natural form or dyes and paints them before weaving them into a coil that is stitched together with waxed linen thread, copper or brass wire or telephone wire. The finished product is then infused with a preservative coating of beeswax and paraffin and signed with the artist’s initials.
His work has been exhibited in over 250 events such as the Smithsonian Craft Show, SOFA (Sculpture, Objects and Functional Art) New York, SOFA Chicago, Philadelphia Craft Show, Atlanta Craft Show and the Charlotte Craft Show, as well as numerous exhibitions sponsored by the National Basketry Organization.
In 2013, his work was awarded “Best in Show” at the National Basketry Organization’s exhibition and conference at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, Gatlinburg, TN. In 2000, his work was selected for inclusion in two significant exhibitions: Contemporary International Basketry, which opened in Manchester, England and toured the United Kingdom for two years; and 100 Years/100 Artists: Views of the 20th Century in SC Art, exhibited at the SC State Museum. He was the 1987 recipient of the SC Arts Commission’s Craft Fellowship and is included in numerous public and private collections including Columbia Museum of Art, AGL Resources (Atlanta Gas & Light), SC History Center, SC State Art Collection, and the SC State Museum.
Burnette’s work is included in Rooted, Revived, Reinvented, an exhibition sponsored by the NBO and the University of Missouri, in 2017 and will travel to 8+ venues for three years. His work was included in a 3-year exhibit at the US Embassy in Dakar, Senegal as part of the US Art in Embassies Program, as well as Tradition/Innovation: American Masterpieces of Southern Craft & Traditional Art, a regional exhibition that toured the southeast for six years. Burnette’s baskets have been included in numerous printed publications including Contemporary International Basketmaking; Baskets: Tradition and Beyond; 500 Baskets; and Craft in America: Celebrating the Creative Work of the Hand.
A native of Dalton, GA, he has resided in Columbia, SC since 1977. He diligently spends his time coiling pine needle baskets and weaving scarves, all done under the close supervision of his rescue dog, Hairy.