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Second Nature

Artist Viola Pace Knudsen’s pine needle baskets and her story evolve naturally and intricately.

Viola’s “Undulations” features wave upon wave of woven needles.

Viola’s “Undulations” features wave upon wave of woven needles.

As she drove through the Everglades more than 10 years ago, Viola Pace Knudsen was inspired. After examining the work of an unassuming street artist who sold pine needle baskets, Viola returned to her own backyard, surveyed her 12 evergreens, and started collecting material.

Then, armed with a pile of pine needles, she sat down on the couch next to her husband, relaxed in front of the television and started her first basket. “I spent all my time in the studio painting and never saw my husband, so I thought this was something I could do while we watched TV,” she says. “I made this really atrocious basket, but it was a lot of fun and I saw it had a lot of potential.”

Today Viola sells 100 to 200 baskets a year and shows her work in three galleries, including Gallery 14, which displays her “needlework” as well as her acrylic paintings. And despite her mellow introduction to basket weaving, she has come to appreciate the depth of the art’s history, as well as her own intricately woven journey. 

“I always wanted to be an artist, but life got in the way,” says Viola, 59. “I did everything backwards.” Born in Iowa and raised in Missouri on a 150-acre farm, Viola loved the outdoors and was heavily influenced by her father, a “buckskinner” with a predilection for leather work and tooling. 

Read the entire article in the March 2016 issue