Handmade: Crafter gives up needlearts for love of basket weaving
When Andrea Herman discovered basket weaving at a community education class back in the ’80s, she immediately fell in love with the craft, which is thought to be as old as mankind.
“I used to cross-stitch, embroider and crochet, but once I found basket weaving, I didn’t want to do anything else,” says the Cadillac resident, who’s currently serving a one-year term as president of the Association of Michigan Basketmakers (AMB), which originated in the early ’80s thanks to “a small group of women who wanted to bring basket making to Michigan.” Herman says, “We only meet once a year at conventions, but we do break off into sub-groups. There are guilds around the state and there’s a big guild in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Kalcaska.”
The baskets Herman makes and sells are both decorative and functional, and made mostly of reed, but she sometimes uses other materials, like willow, oak, waxed linen, cedar, wire, grapevine and birch bark as ornamental accents. She sells her basketry at local art shows, including the Cadillac Festival of Arts, the Frankfort Art Show and the Les Cheneaux Island Antique Wooden Boat Show and Festival of Arts. The baskets sell for $10-$175 each.
Asked who buys such unique and beautifully constructed vessels, Herman, a basket weaver for 29 years, remarks, “A lot of people do — mostly those who appreciate handwoven baskets. A lot have made one basket and thought it was too much work.”
Herman isn’t at all bothered by the time and effort it takes to make a basket because she’s inspired by the whole process of weaving. She says, “I just like sitting down and working with the reed, and doing different things all the time. It relaxes me. It’s how I unwind.”
The proficient basket maker shares her skills with others by teaching at a local YMCA and in her home. “I have a group that has come to my house for almost 20 years, and I’ve gone to people’s homes if they have four or five friends who want to weave. Price depends on how far away it is, and what type of basket they want to make. Usually, it’s around $20-$30 a person, and usually it takes about three or four hours. I supply everything, all the tools — everything they’re going to need.” Students leave with a finished project and written instructions for how to make the basket they made in class.
And although Herman says they have several members who teach across the state, she also informs there are basket weaving lessons and groups throughout Michigan, and that basket weaving supplies are sold locally at a number of places, including the NorEsta Cane & Reed in Allegan and Arnie’s Arts ‘N’ Crafts in Houghton Lake.
AMB will hold its annual convention Oct. 14-18 at Causeway Bay Hotel in Lansing with teachers coming from all over the U.S., including, California, Washington State, Arizona, Texas, Wisconsin and Iowa. The five-day assembly is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, and guests can visit classrooms, the exhibit room and shop with vendors. Admission is free. Persons interested in learning to weave are welcome to become a member of the association. “We are always looking for new members,” says Herman. Currently, membership, which includes a few males, stands at 414.
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or email@example.com.
Contact Andrea Herman at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Association of Michigan Basketmakers at michiganbasketmakers.com.