Carolyn Carmody

Children’s Author

Jose Formosa Reyes

Jose Formosa Reyes

In 1945 Jose Formosa Reyes and his family came to Nantucket fleeing the aftermath of the war in the Philippines during WWII and decided to stay.
Jose held a master’s degree in education from Harvard and applied for a job as a teacher on Nantucket, but turned to house-painting to support his family when he discovered it paid much more than teaching.

To make ends meet Jose used the basket weaving skills he had learned in the Philippines to make several baskets similar to one he found thrown on a dump heap. The basket was a 100-years-old, barrel-patterned basket similar to the ones made on lightships and used by housewives all over the island during the whaling era. Tourists snapped up the first ones he placed on a table inside the fence outside his house within hours.

Jose then learned the craft of making lightship baskets from “Mitchy Ray” the grandson of Captain Charles Ray, the last captain of the lightship at the South Shoals. Jose added a lid with a snug-fitting hinge decorated with an ivory or ebony carved whale or seagull and called these baskets “Friendship Baskets.”
Demand for Jose’s “Friendship Baskets” grew and people from everywhere came to the little shop behind his house to order baskets, but often had to wait up to two years to get one.

Because of his outstanding workmanship and creativity, Jose Formosa Reyes is credited with revitalizing the lightship basket industry on Nantucket.