I live in the Kentucky foothills near Berea with my husband, Dave. The joy of stepping out of my home and into the beauty of our garden and forested creek valley nourishes my creative spirit and enhances my life and work in countless ways. The willow tree bark I weave grows from the Kentucky soil. The Kentucky River is the waterway I navigate to locate those trees. The gardens I plant and nurture in the spring and summer, the wood fire I tend for warmth in winter and the sounds and fragrances of the forest that surrounds my home and studio are the organic elements in my life that seem inseparable from my work and the spirit it possesses.
When not weaving or gardening I may be traveling with my husband whose work as a geographer has taken us to fascinating places around the world. These travels have enabled me to observe a woman in Laos process bamboo and weave her household a chicken cage, and visit with an old man in the Himalayan Mountains as he slowly manipulated bamboo into a sturdy pack basket. I’ve enjoyed the extraordinary experience of weaving with a Tharu villager in the steamy jungle region of Nepal, and the opportunities to learn traditional coiling technique from a young Balinese girl and palm leaf weaving from a Polynesian craft artist. Harvesting, processing and weaving local basketry fiber with a Shuar Indian in the lush Ecuadorian Amazon provided the highlight of a trip to South America. These exciting experiences have served to enhance my knowledge of indigenous weaving traditions while introducing me to rich and colorful cultures where basketry still serves many important functions in people’s daily lives.
I have often found finely woven functional baskets to be vessels of great beauty and spirit that can provoke a powerful emotional response in me. On walking into the storage room of an outstanding collection of Native basketry at the Washington State Historical Society, I was simply overcome. It was all I could do to keep from crying in front of the nice lady who had allowed me entry for the day. A humbling reverence for the exquisite skill and beauty collected within those walls was one reason for my reaction. But to me the energy in that place was palpable, a dance of spirits expressing many women’s woven stories. Women, who while living hard and often tragic lives, deeply loved and worshipped the natural world from which they created their baskets, woven vessels that continue to radiate the combined soulful essences of natural fiber and human spirit.
Native American basketry has a special emotional tug on me and is very influential in my work, but I am intrigued and inspired by fine basketry and textiles from many cultures. I’ve been manipulating fiber since a young girl when I discovered inkle-loom weaving, later graduating to working off a large floor loom. I built up a small herd of sheep and for many years enjoyed raising, processing and weaving their soft fleeces. Interspersed with my hand-weaving projects I began experimenting with basketry and the various fibers available for harvesting in my area. Willow bark became my fiber of choice and woven vessels have evolved into my predominate mode of creative expression. Rhythmic and calming, fiber manipulation centers me while ever-so -slowly building the tension and excitement of a fulfilling form. Woven vessels thoughtfully made radiate an interwoven living essence of fiber and maker. I aspire for my baskets to possess this quality.