Bessie Johnson is a native of the Tibbee community just south of West Point. Both of her parents were active in traditional crafts. Her father wove chair bottoms and baskets, and her mother quilted. Johnson was fascinated with their work and began making baskets herself over 30 years ago. She creates them using a variety of natural materials found around her home and in her community, including pinestraw, corn shucks, gourds, walnuts and chinaberries. While there are others in Mississippi who make baskets using pinestraw and corn shucks, Johnson has created her own unique designs, bringing innovation and creativity to the traditional forms. Johnson has been active teaching and presenting her work, teaching countless classes and workshops and basketmaking over the years. She has also served as a master artist in MAC’s Folk Art Apprenticeship Program. Johnson is a member of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi and displays her work at festivals throughout the region. She was a recipient of a Folk Art Fellowship from MAC in 1999 and won a 2010 Governor’s Arts Award.
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