José Formoso Reyes (1902-1980)

José Formoso Reyes was born on September 15th, 1902 in the Philippines. He pursued his education in Santa Maria before venturing to the U.S. where he completed high school in Portland, Oregon, and earned a BA from Reed College. His academic journey continued with a scholarship to Harvard University, where he attained an M.Ed.

After marrying Mary E. Ham of Massachusetts, José returned to the Philippines. In 1935, he joined the Philippine Military Academy staff, eventually heading the Department of Languages and Social Arts. With the outbreak of World War II in December 1941, José enlisted in the U.S. Army. Upon the liberation of the Philippines in 1945, he resettled in the U.S. as a discharged Army Captain, gaining American Citizenship in 1947. That same year, José and his family found solace on Nantucket Island at his mother-in-law's invitation, marking the beginning of their permanent residence there.

Initially unable to secure a teaching position, José turned to house painting and chair repair. Inspired by a Life Magazine image, José applied his weaving skills from the Philippines to crafting Nantucket lightship baskets. Guided by Mitchell Ray and utilizing molds passed down from Mitchy's father, José embarked on a new career. In 1948, he introduced the "Friendship Basket" pocketbook, incorporating suggestions from local craftsman Charlie Sayle and his wife to adorn basket tops with ivory whale or seagull motifs. José's innovative style and distinctive designs quickly garnered attention, establishing him as a renowned figure in basket weaving.

From then until his retirement in 1978, José crafted an estimated 5,000 baskets. He passed away at his Nantucket home on December 24th, 1980.

Paul Madden Antiques is actively seeking baskets made by José Formoso Reyes. Please contact us for a complimentary evaluation of your basket.