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Retired Montana couple keeping minds busy with basket-weaving business

Retired Billings couple keeping minds busy with basket-weaving business
Posted at 8:42 AM, Mar 27, 2024

BILLINGS — Jill and Paul Scarpari have a unique interest in making handmade baskets. They started in the early ’90s and quickly got to a point where they had so many baskets, that they decided to make a business.

Jill went to her first basket-making class in 1991.

Retired Billings couple keeping minds busy with basket-weaving business

“I was kind of hooked from then on,” she said on Tuesday.

Paul loved the baskets his wife was making and in 1995, thinking it was a simple task, he decided to test his hand at the craft.

Retired Billings couple keeping minds busy with basket-weaving business

“The first basket I ever made didn’t even stand up. I was just telling my wife, you know, making all the jokes, underwater basket weaving that stuff is so easy anybody can do that. Well, it didn’t turn out that way,” Paul said while laughing.

Once Paul figured out how to make baskets that stand on their own, Jill said that their family members got sick of receiving baskets as gifts, so they decided to start selling them.

Retired Billings couple keeping minds busy with basket-weaving business

“I’ve been retired 18 years, and it’s a challenge mentally. You can think up different baskets all the time. It keeps your mind working,” Paul said. “Some baskets are called cat heads. Some are double-twined. Some are double-walled. So, there’s different baskets. Some are flat. Some are round.”

From small pine needle baskets to large hamper and backpack ones, they spend days on each one. While it's technically a business and Scarpari Baskets can be found at local stores, it is also something the retired couple enjoys.

“Once you retire, I think you have to have something to do that you like to do and we like to do this,” Jill said. “Frae (Everyday Goods) in Shiloh Commons and in Three Rivers Gallery in Big Timber, they sell our stuff.”

Prices range from $20 to $300.