Vicki Browne

Vicki Browne is the wife of our own John Browne.  I had referenced this article, and then discovered that the link was corrupt.  So, I’ve reproduced the writeup here.  Scroll to comment #10 for John’s contact information:

Seeing Things | A Clean Sweep


| September 3, 2009, 4:02 am
Originally published in the New York Times

Seeing Things is a biweekly design column by Brooke Hodge, a design writer and curator based in Los Angeles.

Whisk brooms, called turkey wings for their fanlike shape, handmade by Vicki Browne. Even with the enormous popularity these days of all things crafty, it’s unusual to come across someone who makes brooms for a living. Demonstrations at historic sites like Williamsburg and Old Sturbridge Village had been my only exposure to broom making until a recent visit to Vashon, an island off Seattle in the Puget Sound. Vicki Browne, who has lived on the island for 35 years, took up the craft eight years ago after taking a class from a friend there. When he stopped making brooms, she took over.”

Browne walks the island’s beaches to find fallen branches to use as handles. She also fashions handles from found materials like chair spindles or a bright turquoise broomstick unearthed at a junk shop. The bristles are made of natural broomcorn, a variety of sorghum that comes mainly from Mexico. The broomcorn stems are left intact and woven tightly onto the handle, creating a decorative pattern. Then they are flattened and bound with hemp thread in a variety of bright colors, using a long flat needle that is Browne’s only industrially manufactured tool. Her brooms include standard sweepers in the familiar flat style pioneered in the 1820s by the Shakers, cobwebbers and fireplace brooms, and a turkey wing, an unusual kind of whisk broom that resembles the actual turkey wings that were often used to sweep hearths in Colonial times. In true craft fashion, Little John Holzwart, a Wisconsin broom maker, passed the turkey-wing technique on to Browne when they met at Vashon’s annual Folk Life Festival. Browne’s wares are available at the Saturday farmers’ market and at Heron’s Nest, a craft gallery, both in the village of Vashon.


  1. September 3, 2009 7:52 am Link

    I saw some neat brooms at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts a few years ago, including these:

    (the bigger one there is over $500!).

    — William

  2. September 3, 2009 8:53 am Link

    many years ago, i bought a gorgeous broom in asheville, nc…six feet tall, 4 inch thick wisteria handle, beautifully woven…it hangs on a wall in my house along with other pieces of art…thanks for focusing on the beauty of everyday objects…

    — kj

  3. September 3, 2009 9:53 am Link

    How beautiful they are. I love the different handles, and learning about broomcorn!

    — Cressida Chance

  4. September 3, 2009 1:25 pm Link

    I love it; I have to read The New York Times to discover what’s in my own backyard (or up the road as the case may be).

    — tom | tall clover farm

  5. September 3, 2009 1:46 pm Link

    I have the privilege of knowing Vicki and can testify to the extraordinary beauty of her brooms. The detail of her work is breathtaking! And I love that she forages for materials.

    Ask to see her baskets next.

    — Janie Starr

  6. September 4, 2009 12:15 am Link

  7. great product…….but go across the border into canada and go to crawford bay on kootenay lake to find some of the finest brooms produced.


    — stump farmer

  8. September 4, 2009 11:28 am Link

    I am also fortunate enough to know Vicki, and I own one of her brooms, which is as beautiful next to the hearth year round as it is functional.

    Vashon Island is an amazingly unique and diverse community with a tremendous concentration of artists and artisans, disciplines too numerous to list here. Come see for yourself!

    — Kris Thompson

  9. September 5, 2009 1:30 pm Link

    Thanks so much for getting the message out about Vicki and her wonderful handcrafted brooms and baskets. I also have lived on Vashon for 35 years ( or so) and have known Vicki the entire time. I am happy to be able to call her a friend as I admire her approach to life. She carries on the traditions of our past by focusing on what is most important, the quality of each moment rather than the pursuit of money. Love you Vicki!

    — Geo Cheroke

  10. September 7, 2009 12:21 am Link

    Since The Heron’s Nest (referenced in the article) doesn’t have an online catalog, and doesn’t ship products, Vicki can be reached online: jbrowne001(at)centuryteldotnet; or by calling the Judd Creek Nursery at (206)463-9641. ^..^

    — John Browne

  11. September 7, 2009 12:53 pm Link

    Vicki’s brooms are my favorite gifts: beautiful, useful, enduring. My own whisk broom resides in my car, and the short broom in my kitchen for quick cleanup.

    I love objects that are interesting as well as useful and beautiful. Vicki’s brooms have all that: design, details, history of the craft, broomcorn stems have waves caught in a basketery weave. But most of all, I love having an object made by a smart, knowledgable friend who gives me something I need, something beyond my skill, something pleasing to the senses, something that links us to our history and our landscape.

    — Ann Spiers

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