The Kentucky Folklife Program is saddened to share the news of the passing of Mark Childress on March 28, 2021. As a proud 7th generation legacy of Kentucky’s White Oak basketmaking Childress family, Mark was a prolific and inventive artist who touched everyone. Throughout his life, Mark remained the epitome of what it means to be a talented artist tied to a long-held community of traditional makers.
Mark first learned his basketmaking skills from his father and mother, Clevie and Darlene, grandfather George, as well as his great uncle and aunt Lestel and Ollie Childress. When Mark got married to his equally-talented wife Malinda, she soon picked up the artwork and they continued to work together on projects. Over the years they raised their sons Mathew, Jeremy, Jared, and Marcus in this creative family-based artistic environment, and they too developed their own skills they learned from their parents.
Mark had a keen eye for picking out the best basket timber, and his deft knife work breaking down a white oak into ribs and weaving splits was truly legendary among all within the local basketmaking world. A fixture at the Hart County Fair’s Split White Oak Basket Contest for over 20 years, Mark’s inventive basket creations consistently drew favor from judges who awarded him for his mastery. Not only was Mark a sought-after maker, but he was a special partner of the Kentucky Folklife Program in presenting his work to thousands throughout the Commonwealth. For many years Mark demonstrated his artistry and added greatly to countless talk stages at events like the Kentucky Folklife Festival, The Kentucky Craft Market, the Kentucky State Fair, and Horse Cave Heritage Days. Mark had a gift for making you feel you were the only one in the room when he shared with you his passion and pride for his artistry.
Rest in Peace Mark, you will be greatly missed and remembered forever.