Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sievers of Washington Island

August 30th a fellow basketry guild member and I set out on the drive from southwestern Ontario to Ludington, Michigan where the next morning we would take the ferry SS Badger across Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It was a 4 hour crossing but this trip took 4 1/2 hours due to unusually rough conditions.

No matter, it was a beautiful, sunny day and once in Wisconsin, it was a pleasant afternoon's drive north to the Washington Island ferry.

Sievers School of Fiber Arts is a haven for the serious fibre artist or basketmaker. We settled into the dorm and readied ourselves for a week of willow instruction with Jo Campbell Amsler, focusing on rib technique. The studio was in a converted barn next to the dorm, there was lots of good light and plenty of space. There were just 5 in our class and it was wonderful to have almost one-on-one with the teacher. The class was called Step By Step - Rib Style Basics and we were encouraged to learn how to make 3 or 4 different baskets. There were Scottish egg baskets, pouches, gathering baskets, sieves, melon baskets and other choices too. Almost new to rib construction, I chose to try the egg basket, a harvest pouch and a flat bottomed basket with a curly willow handle. We learned to make our own frames using a wooden form

and how to make perfect gods eyes and 3 point lashings to begin a basket.

There is a sally garden at Sievers and we enjoyed a tour, discovering some varieties I had not seen before along with some familiar ones. There is a class here in October where students actually gather the willow and use it for their baskets, taking the remainder home for more weaving. The week on Washington Island was an autumn delight, with matchless weather, trees still leafy and green and dark nights lit by a full harvest moon. Our dorm, late at night, photo by the husband of a student.

Some of the class with our baskets

and Jo Campbell Amsler with one of the students.

Everyone got together for a night of delicious pot luck. Here is the arrival of the main dish - gazpacho, courtesy of Jo.

There were many of Jo's baskets to admire:

Friday before noon we bid farewell and took the north route back to Ontario, staying over in Escanaba. We certainly enjoyed this willow week and expect to be back to Sievers before too long.