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Basketry Conference - conference.gif (2647 bytes)

Dateline: 06/01/99

The drive was long but the destination was in sight. Snow was on the top of the mountain and excitement was in the air. I planned to spend a week in the mountains of Vermont for instruction from some of the best known basketry teachers and interaction with creative students from far and wide. Merry and Grady Vigneau of The Round Hearth at Stowe recently hosted the 8th Annual Stowe Basketry Festival. If you have ever had the chance to attend a basketry conference you know the vibrancy of assembling a large group of creative individuals. If you have never had the pleasure of attending an event like this I encourage you to take the next chance you have.

By the time I arrived the place was hopping with activity. Pre-festival classes had been held on Monday and Tuesday with Mary Butcher of Kent, England, Bobbi Hall, JoAnn Kelly Catsos and Doris Messick. The pre-festival students had worked on willow, black ash, Nantucket Lightship or gathered naturals baskets and had spent two days with these respected teachers creating their basket treasures. I planned to take the remaining five days of classes in the festival itself and was looking forward to the next morning, when for me, the serious work would begin.

Marilyn and Mary - marilyn99.jpg (8478 bytes)The workshops are held in the Midway Lodge on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield right in Stowe Mountain Resort. The scenery is spectacular and the ample windows of the lodge allow for beautiful views as you work. My first class was a shaped and beaded coiled pine needle basket with Marilyn Moore of Seattle, WA. Coiled pine needle basketry is the kind of endeavor that requires patience and time. I was glad for both the excellent instruction offered by Marilyn and the relaxed pace of a two-day class. All around us people were working on a variety of techniques and materials. Keiko Takeda had traveled from Tokyo, Japan to teach a knotted flower basket of dyed Japanese cane. Dianne Stanton was skillfully and rapidly leading her class through making a lidded black ash Penobscot fancy basket embellished with curls and a sweetgrass rim. Jackie Abrams led her class in plaited painted paper where students wove Star Pillows. Mary Hettmansperger, always the consummate entertainer, used herself as a model to demonstrate to her students how to insert ribs in their potato baskets. Sosse Baker taught a double walled twill Inside Out basket of natural and dyed reed.

Ceil in Judy's Twill Class - ceil.jpg (9709 bytes)In the other room students were busily working their way through Flo Hoppe's Number's Game in round reed, Judy Olney's challenging but exquisite twill baskets of Japanese cane, or Gladys Ellis and Anne Lima's Nantucket Lightship Basket class. Tucked downstairs and separated a bit from the hustle and bustle of the large spaces above, Bob Coker's class worked on their black ash biscuit baskets with pulled ash rod framed lids and graceful swing handles.

The day passes quickly. Mid-morning snack and then lunch comes and goes. At lunch everyone takes time to renew established friendships or introduce themselves to new basket weaving friends. There is something comforting in meeting new people who don't require that you explain why it is that you weave baskets. They already know and may well be more involved in basketry than you are. After lunch the teacher's marketplace fills with eager shoppers vying for the newest book, pattern, bead, or tool the instructors have offered for sale. I treated myself to a new book and a beautiful Russian Birch Bark stamped, engraved and stitched covered oval box that Cass Schorsch had displayed on her table.

Soon the afternoon instruction begins again in earnest and projects begin to take shape around us as we work patiently on the coiled pine needle pieces that seem to take forever to show progress. The small stitches of split raffia march their way around the baskets and beads are selected and inserted into the coiling as the work continues. At the end of the afternoon some of the classes have come to conclusion while others like ours will begin again the next morning often with "homework" to be done before then. The short trip down the mountain to The Round Hearth leads to dinner and more socializing. A group of us met at a local Mexican restaurant where I suffered through some of the hottest steak sauce I've ever had, much to the delight of my fellow diners. Thank goodness I hadn't poured it over everything.

We re-gathered for mini-classes at the Round Hearth each evening. All week a variety of short workshops were offered by not only the faculty, but by students as well. Conversation continues late into the night and begrudgingly we make our way to our rooms to rest to start again the next day.

Page Two

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