Venetia Dale

Touchmarks: The Social Life of Plastic Baskets
Cast pewter from fragments of plastic baskets

Artist Statement

The ubiquitous nature of the plastic basket became an interest of mine while traveling in Southeast Asia in 2007. My observations of this transnational, mobile object inspired a more thorough investigation of the particularities of these baskets: where are they made, exchanged, used, and discarded? Arjun Appadurai’s examination of the life of an object, activated through the agent of exchange, provided a framework in my own articulation of the social and cultural significance of this mundane object. In this series, I imagine a ‘social life’, a use, and a resulting form for these baskets exhibited here as Touchmarks: The Social Life of Plastic Baskets.

Similar to many commodities that are produced in one country and consumed in another, these baskets provide evidence of contemporary production regulation through markers that define country: Made in India, company, New Ocean Plastics, or production code No. 901. ‘Touchmarks’ are marks stamped on historical pewter wares designating guild, quality, and authenticity of the wares. To parallel this need for reference in contemporary commodities, plastic corporate ‘touchmarks’ are cast from plastic baskets into pewter and embedded within the individual works in this series, providing a new context for the distance between producer and consumer to be recognized and contemplated. How are relationships between places understood through the markers that identify one country from another in a commodity? How does that reflect preserved notions of identity and belonging?


Venetia uses processes and techniques of metalsmithing and object making to address issues of production, labor, heritage, and representation. Travels in South America, China, Southeast Asia, and West Africa have influenced the perspective from which she studies and responds to relationships between people and places in the shaping, defining, and reinventing of individual and collective identities. Through the use, translation, and interpretation of ubiquitous and mobile objects, Venetia’s work begins to reclaim the space between what is lost and re-invented in the transformation and evaluation of our material world.

Venetia hails from Madison, Wisconsin (USA), completing her BFA from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004 and her MFA from State University of New York at New Paltz in 2009. She currently resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin teaching as Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.