This past weekend was the fabulous Conference of Northern California Handweavers (CNCH) conference in sunny Squaw Valley. My partner kept commenting on my “earthy” community and truly, urban or rural, there is an earthmother quality to people who love fiber arts. There was an easy camaraderie with strangers, forged by our common love of fibers. In hallways, banquet rooms and hot tubs, we engaged in animated conversations about fibers, equipment, beautiful clothes and more. In classrooms people helped each other, admired emerging work and shared their own experiences and wisdom.
We arrived a few days early to enjoy the area. On Friday morning before the conference we drove in Tahoe City and walked along the gorgeous lake. In a world of dismal news about climate change, we were thrilled to see that Lake Tahoe is higher and healthier than it was during our last visit a decade ago. Serendipity led us to the Gatekeeper’s Museum, a tiny museum with the Marian Steinbach collection of Native American baskets. It was overwhelming to see the 1000+ baskets most of them made more than 80 years ago.
That afternoon we participated in the CNCH opening “tailgate sale”, selling fair trade items for Mayan Hands, a group of weavers’ cooperatives in Guatemala. Many enthusiastic weavers including some who had gone on Mayan Hands Fair Trade Tours visited our booth to discuss and buy the beautifully made baskets and textiles.
These conferences often focus on portable crafts as most of us do not have full looms we can transport to a meeting. My first class on Many Starts for Twining baskets was taught by Margaret Mathewson of the Ancient Arts Center in Oregon. An anthropologist and a walking encyclopedia of native basket techniques, she didn’t have a flashy power point or colorful handouts, but at the end of three hours I came away with 8 basket start samples most of which I can easily now create on my own. Some of these techniques are things I just could not reproduce from a book, but seeing it done and having Margaret’s gentle instruction has given me a lot more confidence to start twining baskets.
A second basketry class taught by Gayle Still used her beautiful mushroom dyed yarns to coil a small basket. On returning from the conference I actually finished the basket. Registration for the conference was seven months ago before I’d ever made a covered coil basket (see June 5 post), but this class let me explore color combinations within the limited range that comes from mushrooms. I learned a lot about what I like about contrasts in colors and definitely will be looking for wild mushrooms to play with when the rains come next winter. The beauty of the mountain setting was incomparable, the camaraderie invaluable and I accelerated my skills in basket making. A truly enjoyable weekend!