The Queue: Gabriel Frey

The Queue: Gabriel Frey

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

Published on Monday, April 18, 2022.
blog post cover graphic for The Queue featuring Gabriel Frey
Cover of Spring 2022 issue of American Craft

Welcome to the Fashion series of The Queue.
A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the current issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.

Balancing art with function and shining a light on Indigenous craft.
Based in Orono, Maine, basket artist Gabriel Frey weaves black ash into elegant carryalls. About his Pack Basket—which can be seen in the Market section of our Spring 2022 issue—he say, "This classic design [is] the basket my grandfather taught me how to make over 25 years ago."


How do you describe your work or practice?
I am a 13th-generation Passamaquoddy black ash basket maker specializing in uniquely decorative utility baskets.

handmade black ash basket

Portrait by Roger Merchant. Basket photo courtesy of Gabriel Frey.

portrait of grabriel frey

The past 18+ months have presented many challenges, from a global pandemic to renewed urgency around issues of racial equity and police brutality. As we slowly move into a post-pandemic world, how are you finding beauty and staying grounded?
This major global shift has created space within myself to walk toward things that in the past I thought were out of my reach. I have been taking a biodynamic craniosacral therapy training.

The theme of the current issue of American Craft is "Fashion." Can you reflect on that theme as it relates to your work and practice?
When it comes to fashion, I think my work would fall in the realm of "accessory," and within that I think a lot about function and form and how they interact with one another. It's always interesting to try and strike a balance between a work of art and something that people feel comfortable wearing and using on a daily basis.

handmade black ash basket
handmade black ash basket

Photos courtesy of Gabriel Frey.

What has been the biggest barrier you have had to break through to get to the place you’re at with your career?
I don't think I've broken any barriers; I would say that over the past 24 years I have eroded the barrier of undervaluing Indigenous craft—through education slowly and patiently over the course of time.

What’s one of your go-to / favorite tools in your toolkit that the world should know about?
Probably my most-used tool in my tool basket is a Buck knife that I have had for years—and still has a great edge on it.

basket artist using a buck knife to carve a strip of black ash

Photo by Brendan Bullock, courtesy of Gabriel Frey.

What’s your favorite social media post you’ve seen recently?
So much of what Tawnya Brant is doing right now to shine a light on Indigenous food is inspiring. @cheftawnyabrant

What podcast should we be listening to right now, and why?
Cut the Craft podcast is one that I'm into right now. They are a lot of fun to listen to and have a real great storytelling/interviewing style—plus it's all about craft. Also Throughline is a podcast that will change the way you see the world.

cut the craft podcast logo
throughline podcast logo
cover of braiding sweetgrass by robin wall kimmerer

What book should we be reading or paying attention to right now?
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It is a beautifully written book about Indigenous stewardship practices and ways non-natives can apply these philosophies in their own lives through a true connection with the natural world.

Are you binge watching anything right now?
I binged the season of Foundation on Apple TV. Also just started season two of Raised by wolves on HBO.

If you could purchase any craft artist's work for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
I have purchased crooked knives from toolmaker Reid Schwartz. I would love to own one of Danielle Rose Byrd's hand carved bowls one day. @reidschwartz @danielle_rose_byrd

hand carved oblong wooden bowl displayed on a table

Work by Danielle Rose Byrd. Photo courtesy of the artist.

stack of four issues of american craft with the spring 2022 issue on top

Inspired by the people featured in The Queue?

Dive deeper into their work in the pages of American Craft magazine. Become a member of the American Craft Council to get a subscription and help fund a range of nonprofit programs that elevate the craft community.

Join To Get a Subscription

Post Sponsor

living with scents museum of craft and design february 12 through june 5 2022