As a treat after spending the first three months of 2018 weeding my books and old magazines, I was in Visalia, California for the weekend at the 7th Biennial Conference — Baskets and Gourds — Containers of Our Culture. This was my third time attending this conference.
The weekend included a gallery reception on Friday evening of work created by the teachers .
I particularly like this conference, held at the Visalia Elks Lodge, because it is a large open room and we can walk around and see what other classes are doing. The location draws craft people from Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Sacramento area. A dozen or more of my friends from the Bay Area Basket Makers (BABM) were there.
Participants had an all day class on Saturday and a different class on Sunday.
My Saturday class was about how to use copper sheeting to make jewelry or embellishments for baskets. For me, this was a opportunity to become familiar with the materials, tools, and using a torch to anneal the metal, which softens it so it is easier to work with, and to bring up different colors. We learned numerous ways to connect metal pieces together, to use them as pendants or earrings. This was a good introduction, but I will need to play with this material some more to develop the skills to make what I envision.
My Saturday class was actually outdoors because we were using torches to heat metal and hammering. People cleaning and carving gourds also work outside.
Saturday evening featured a catered dinner and guest speaker, JoAnn Kelly Catsos from Western Massachusetts, who makes traditional type baskets using a mold.
My Sunday class was making a small basket using both twinning and weaving of the elements. The bottom and vertical spokes are Western Red Cedar bark gathered on the Pacific Northwest Coast from trees that were being cut for logging. Our instructor, Polly Adams Sutton, had prepared the cedar spokes for our use. We twinned with a three sided rush, Northwest sweet grass, Scheonoplectus pungens, from tidal flats in Washington. At the same time, we wove Beargrass between the spokes, so that the twining was securing the bear grass.
This class was more fun than Saturday’s and I could work quickly because I often make twinned baskets. When I go to this sort of class my intention is to learn something new and make a sample. Making a more perfect product takes repeated practice and careful attention to detail, such as trimming the Beargrass to be a consistent width.
I think this combination technique would be interesting with different materials like yarn and cording.
I drove back to Stockton late Sunday afternoon, arriving just before dark. Monday, of course, involved putting away equipment and sorting out handouts and freebies. By 4 p.m. I was fighting to stay awake, and a short nap lasted two hours. All that concentrated creative effort, abundant stimulation from people, and new ideas used more energy than I expected.