Dresden & Co. is Keeping Ohio's Basket Weaving Tradition Alive

Designing modern, handmade baskets for the everyday

Nicholas Youngblood
Michael Kennedy, creative director of Dresden & Co., in the company’s showroom

Many small town creatives dream about bringing their passion to the national stage, but few insist on taking their small town with them. Michael Kennedy, creative director at Dresden & Co., has done just that.

Kennedy has been in the home décor business his entire professional life. Growing up in Newark, he was inspired by his grandmother, Mary Sherwood Wright Jones, a prominent illustrator. After studying interior design at Ohio University and then the University of London, he moved to Columbus to cut his teeth in the retail housewares business.

Kennedy says he was certain he would never go back to Newark, but years of German Village traffic changed his mind. A call from the Longaberger Co., the renowned basket maker, in 1990 sealed the deal. “Here in my backyard was probably one of the best jobs I could ever find in the country,” he recalls.

Thus, when Longaberger shut down in 2018, Kennedy was one of the executives determined to keep Ohio’s basket weaving tradition alive. Now, with Dresden & Co., he aims to provide products as reliable as the hardworking people who craft them. “They’re not disposable, they’re really things that you buy, that you will have forever,” he says. “And I think there’s a romance around that.”

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Kennedy sources the company’s products that aren’t made in-house, working with American craftspeople from the hills of West Virginia to the streets of Los Angeles, and everywhere in between. He also tracks upcoming trends that influence a monthly rotation of specialty products.

Larry Dailey at Dresden & Co. works on weaving a basket for Longaberger in Dresden, Ohio.

What has made the revival of Dresden & Co.’s handmade basketry possible? Passion and an enduring love for both the village of Dresden and the heritage of the basket making make it possible for Dresden & Co., a new company, to exist. The immediate goal for the company was to put people back to work with a craft they loved and that had provided their livelihood for decades. It goes beyond the weavers to those who prepare the materials, those who design the baskets and those who ready them for delivery. We have been able to connect with people throughout the country who appreciate craftsmanship, either that we make here or that we share from small family-owned businesses.

Why is it important to you to preserve the tradition of basket weaving in Dresden? Our mission is “Life made better” and that begins here in Dresden, ZIP code 43821. We see the continuation of basket making in Dresden as a way of revitalizing this village, keeping the heartbeat of Main Street alive.

What is your philosophy toward balancing aesthetics and functionality? Baskets have been used for centuries for everything from gathering to carrying to organizing. We focus on designing baskets for those purposes, often with an aesthetic that is inspired by current home décor trends.

What do you look for in upcoming homeware trends? Modern farmhouse—with its use of natural materials and neutral colors—continues to dominate decorating trends, but bold and bright color is coming back to American interiors.

How do you take traditionally rustic home goods such as baskets and pottery and make them feel fresh and modern? Baskets and pottery are works of art in the eyes of those who are creating them and using them in their homes. While both often may be utilitarian in nature, we look for color, creative weaving style and innovative design materials.

This story is from the April 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.