Handmade: Crafter revels in love of basket making
Before she retired more than five years ago from her work as a letter carrier, Amy Jorgensen was what one might call a "frustrated crafter." Work got in the way of pursuing her favorite hobbies -- basketweaving andjewelry making, however, she admits missing customers along the 12-year route she had when she retired, after being on the job more than 34 years.
"People who have retired, say, 'Oh, I have nothing to do,' but I couldn't wait to retire to fill my time crafting" said the Grosse Pointe Woods resident, who fell in love with crafting in the early '80s.
"I took an adult education class at Harper Woods High School in 1983, and I just loved it. I took that class and a stained glass class at the same time. I have made a few more stained glass pieces within the years, but my love was basket weaving."
Her love for making baskets far exceeds her desire to do other crafts with the same passion. She's done acrylic painting, fused glass and woodwork, but she's found none to be as fulfilling as creating decorative and functional vessels made with sweet grass, pine needles, day lilies, cat tails and other natural fibers. She even likes taking a weaving project with her when she travels.
"When I go on vacation and don't take any of my craft projects, I will look for something to do there, like take a basketweaving class in another country," she said. "When I went to Ireland, I took a basket weaving class -- an all-day willow workshop. I also took a class in Hawaii with coconut palm leaves. I contacted the weaver who worked in a museum and he came and taught a class. It's a fun way to meet new people."
Different forms of jewelry making may very well be her second love. Once while vacationing in Las Vegas, she said, while her friend went gambling, she went to a bead store and took a class. And, just a couple weeks ago, while vacationing in St. Martin, she carried along 44 pieces of silverware (spoons) to make 22 bangle bracelets. "I was able to get probably 90% of them done. Some are stainless steel and some are sterling silver that I picked up at estate and garage sales," she stated.
Jorgensen shares her passion for both basket weaving and jewelry making by teaching others through St. Clair Shores Adult Ed and at the Grosse Pointe Library. "They're normally a three-hour class." She started teaching basket weaving in 1988, and has "probably four students" who've been with her ever since. Her jewelry making students learn how to create brooches and necklaces made using vintage silverware. They also learn beading and wire wrapping.
As a prolific basket weaver, Jorgensen thinks the age old practice may very well be "kind of a lost art (because) not many people are doing it." However, she's been able to discover new techniques and materials by looking at the work of those who do basketweave which she's able to view on Pinterest and in magazines. Therefore, her work continues to have a modern and contemporary look that works well with any decor.
"People were using wood, so just to get a new look, I started using corian -- another thing instead of regular wood bases. I (also) do something called fractal burning. It's done with electricity where you put two ends of electrical wires together and use baking soda. It makes different designs into the wood grain."
Jorgensen has taught at basket weaving conventions in Florida, North Carolina, Indiana and Canada, where she's a member of a basket weaving guild. She's also been doing craft shows for about the past four years, selling her goods under the name Woven Treasures. Her baskets range from $10 for a woven candy cane to $120 for a lamp with a woven base. Some of her baskets can take as long as eight hours to complete, making them difficult to price. "You don't get the money for the time and effort," she stated. "You have to really price it high for that, but I just kind of do guessing as to what I would pay for something like it." Then, there's also the harsh affect it has on one's hands, but for her, the beauty and unique quality of her basketry is worth every "ragged" cuticle.
Look for Jorgensen selling her awesome baskets Saturday at Parcells Holiday Art and Craft Bazaar, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The school is located at 20600 Mack in Grosse Pointe Woods. Admission is $3 for adults, and free for children.
Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, email@example.com or Facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Woven Treasures at (586) 506-7906. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.