Faces Of Nantucket: Caitlin And Tim Parsons

Charity Grace Mofsen •

FACES Parsons 16
Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

Faces of Nantucket: Caitlin & Tim Parsons

Years on the island: 37

Favorite thing about Nantucket: "the community/the people–everyone has each others’ backs, especially during tough times. Second favorite is the beaches."

Just off Old South Road in their subterranean workshop, Tim and Caitlin Parsons combine craftsmanship and their love of Nantucket to make unique works of art.

The father-daughter duo share the space, but each has carved out their own niche in the island's art scene.

Tim, a basketmaker, woodworker, carver, scrimshander, and teacher, has been making Nantucket lightship baskets for more than three decades.

Caitlin represents the next generation. A lightship basket maker and woodworker, she founded the successful Nantucket Bracelets, based on the traditional weaving materials and methods used in making lightship baskets. 

For Tim, what began as a way to come up with inexpensive Christmas gifts and make money in the off-season quickly turned into a passion and, in turn, a successful business venture. Tim had previously worked in irrigation with John Sylvia before learning to make baskets from John’s sister Jen. After acquiring a couple of instructional books, he spent the winter teaching himself, and little by little he perfected his craft. So much so that he decided not to go back to irrigation once the season started. A dedicated basket weaver for the Four Winds for three years, Tim began offering classes through the Community School where he taught for over 10 years. From local teachers to hospital employees to summer residents who return every year, if they’ve learned to make baskets on Nantucket, there’s a good chance they learned from Tim.

Despite originally thinking basket weaving was just for women, Tim has become a trusted artisan, not only teaching his craft to others but also making parts and supplies to sell to other makers around the island.

Caitlin grew up in the shop watching her father perfect his craft, as one does when their parent is a maker. Like many Nantucketers, she left the island to explore life elsewhere for a while.

But the island has a funny way of reeling people back in. After breaking her ankle, she learned to make bracelets during the time she had to stay off her feet. Eventually, Caitlin moved back to Nantucket in 2013 and started to pursue bracelet-making as a part-time career. 

“I lucked out because he’s done all this," Caitlin said of her father. "Spent 30 years creating all these molds and jigs and methods of doing specific basket things and I just get to walk in and be like, 'Oh this is how we do it'."

Caitlin still has her first basket from 1995. 

On working with her dad: “It’s the best,” she says.

All photos below by Charity Grace Mofsen

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