I am Blaming Jean Sharp

We moved very quickly into our new house 5 years ago now. The people buying our old house were impatient to start work on it. We were impatient to get moved in. The vast space which was to be my studio got some drywall on the walls and white paint and that was that.

My husband said it would be like an “industrial space”, and I thought “Yeah, gritty!” and felt very hip and au courrant and also, younger, less hide bound, more open minded, etc.  Walls covered with shelves of yarn and 6 looms with projects underway were a dynamic and attractive distraction.
Then I saw the pictures online of Jean Sharp’s new studio! Well thought out, beautiful, etc. Maybe that’s when I started feeling my space was, well, shabby with lots of ugly corners. The lighting was amateur.

I hated the duck tape, red industrial tape and even pink insulation peeking out. I noticed I was bringing projects into the rest of the house to work on.

Time for a reno. Packing up all my yarn and basketry stuff and all those shells with holes in them and skate egg cases and driftwood, pine needles, lotus seed pods, felting supplies, etc., was quite a job. John took apart several looms.


It all took so much time. There also were all the decisions about what really was I going to use and what materials should be eliminated from storage. It was like a sober second thought, as I had certainly pared back supplies and materials when we moved in five years ago.

We used a carpenter/contractor who had done a lot of work on our old house. He has many years experience, and does things that I would never even think of, but which adds immeasurably to the finished project.

He wanted us to choose paint colours, doors, flooring and told us where to shop. I felt very inadequate at this shopping! Could not visualize how anything was going to look.  So far it seems to be looking good. The electrician, plumber, etc,. were people  he has enjoyed working with over the years and they were excellent workers, as well as very agreeable to have coming and going.

The last step of course was moving everything back!  Talk about a make work project. And then I had a series of medical interventions when I discovered I had cancer.  The treatments take so much of a toll, but all is well. Oh yes, and then a knee replacement. I feel very fortunate to have had  such wonderful medical care, and the timing of it all before COVID 19.  But, all in all, its taken over a year and a half to really get my workshop operational.  Just this week I made a last adjustment to a loom’s foot pedals.

I am loving being in my new studio, back to work and rediscovering all my yarns and full of new ideas for projects. The pandemic has insisted I stay at home, and that has been good for weaving. Now, my next challenge. Figuring out ecommerce, to sell my work as the pandemic has certainly not been good for my craft shows.

UPDATE !  With a lot of assistance, I have an online shop on this website, in the Menu under….. SHOP.

Basketry and Spirituality

All baskets are made by hand, they cannot be made by machine, and I think that is the first  reason so many people respond to baskets, they can see the hand of the maker. The materials for traditional baskets come from plants and are gathered from forests and wetlands, and I think people respond to that as well, something from nature in our often plastic and urban lives. I remember taking a class from a Maori basket maker and she said, “this is the song we sing when we gather the flax” and she threw back her head and sang out something ancient and beautiful . Baskets go way back in time, they predate pottery. There is a connection with the past in every basket. Its also a very meditative process, to create something by hand, working in a group or singly, both can be stimulating, calming, satisfying, many feelings and emotions can occur simultaneously. All these aspects together means there is something so spiritual connected with the basketry process.

I have  felt a deep association with nature and the outdoors as I have perused my interest in basketry. I often think I cannot make a basket that is more beautiful than the tangle of wild vines, berries and grasses that I find in my gathering ground, a near by fen. I also love the way plants and flowers create a mood, just by being themselves! My baskets always try to incorporate the beauty of nature, loosely but strongly twisted into a shape that I create, all the while cooperating with what a plant will and will not allow. Its always a compromise.

Melinda Mayhall used to say she taught  self assertion for basket makers, but I think its more a game of give and take. I took a lot of willow classes from Jule Koch, I told her I wanted to learn how to not fight with willow. She indicated it was always quite an effort to use willow. Its a miracle to me how people can make such even, perfectly shaped baskets with willow and other plants which have very irregular forms. I am not so interested in creating even and perfect shapes, but totally respect the skill that they take.

There are so many conventional and unconventional basketry materials that grow in Eastern Ontario/Western Quebec. I have enjoyed learning how to use them and enjoyed as well teaching others. A teacher always learns from their students, and I enjoy seeing how individual everyone’s work is.

This basket was a real breakthrough for me. I found all the components adjacent to each other, the antler, the wild willows, the grasses. It felt very spiritual to me. It was purchased by an Anglican Priest who wanted to use it in healing ceremonies.

have read some books lately that have given me a lot of information about the ways trees and plants communicate with each other and with us. I am totally amazed, and yet, don’t we know this. Forest Bathing, being in the woods is so healing.

I am always looking for found objects to incorporate into my baskets. Perfect shells with no holes in them no longer have any appeal. Dried flowers, seed pods, grasses all add such texture. I have an enormous collection of sea shells, drift wood, etc. that I rediscovered when we moved, and am planning a large basket workshop for this autumn where I can share these materials with my students. I do not think I can live long enough to use them up myself.

It would be wonderful to spend a day making baskets with you.