September 22,1999 I mailed a pine needle basket to my swap partner in a Weavers Word swap, that is where this story begins.
I received a very heart felt thank you from Valerie Miller for the basket I had sent her, a small ginger jar shaped pine needle piece that I had hoped would please its recipient. Not only was she pleased with the basket she had passed my name onto Pamela, who in turn sent me a personal invitation to become part of the Pine Needle Group.
Over the past 5 years Val has ask me many times to become part of the Association of Michigan Basketmakers (AMB) guild and attend a convention, as she was sure I would enjoy myself. After much procrastination and trying to save enough money to be able to do this, I attended the convention for the first time in October of 2004.
After much effort on Val's part she talked me into placing some of my pieces in the juried competition. I had never done anything like this and could only just imagine how sad my work was going to look sitting along side all the other great works at the convention. What was not already in her private collection as gifts from me, I mailed to her so I would not have to worry about them in my luggage.
I have not flown in more than 20 years! My husband said that sending me on a plane alone was like sending one of our children off into the world with out guidance! I arrived in Grand Rapids Michigan without any trouble, and stood at the airport with my bags in my hands wondering if I was going to recoginze the person picking me up, as up to this point we had only visited on the 'net. Just as I was questioning my sanity, I noticed Val and her friend coming around the corner. I was very happy to see her. I was excited to finally have the opportunity to meet her in person, after 5 years of emailing back and forth. It was rather amazing, right from the start we got along, just like long lost friends separated by many miles!
We took my baskets and Pamela's down to the exhibit room to sign in for the juried competition, all of which went rather smoothly.
Friday Val surprised me in my class and wanted to go to the exbihit room (seems she knew something I did not!). She seemed a bit flustered when we got there, she kept saying where is it. I was afraid they had lost Pamela's tiny little mini basket exhibit! Which by the way took Best Mini and won a large ribbon and a cash prize, congratulations Pamela.
To my suprise what Val was looking for was my basket, I had also taken an award. I was awarded Best Naturals basket for my "Acorn" piece. I was very excited and had to have Val wait to take a photo till I composed myself!
I also had a basket in the coiled section, I did not get any awards there but, was was pleased with the judges comments on my piece. Carol Lang from the Pine Needle Group won the Best Coiled piece in this catagory with a waxed linen piece, that was very nice, and Nancy DeVries, also of the Pine Needle Group, received the merit award on the piece that she had entered in the coiling section. I had a large antler basket in the sharing section, which I had not remembered as being so large when I had shipped it as gift a couple years ago. The size of the box must have looked like a gag gift! I was in awe at all the baskets that were there to view, all the great weaving experiences to be had, and all the wonderful friendships to be made.
My convention classes were all very fun. There were four full days of classes, I began with a preconvention class that was given by Karen Tembreull of L'Anse Michigan, it was called Patchwork with folded lid and was a very fun class. The instruction was wonderful and I thought in general the class went very well. The larger percentage of people in the classes finished their baskets in class.
When the convention began on Friday, I had a Willow Carryall class with Jo Cambell of Monticello, Iowa. I had never made a rib basket with willow before and found it to be a material that I truely enjoyed using, again the class instruction was wonderful, but I did not finish my basket in class. I finished the weaving in about 1/2 an hour back in my room and did the embellishments after arriving back home.
My Saturday class was called Snowflake and was a small birch bark class again with Karen Tembreull - lots of fun. The final class on Sunday was Fretwork Ornament with Anne Coleman of Danville, Kentucky. The Sunday classes are designed to be much shorter and simpler. Most people were finished up long before the 4 hours was up, and it just seemed in general like most people had had enough and were ready to go home.
There was market place, where there were so many vendors with their products. Almost overwhelming, there is so much. Teachers' marketplace, that lasts approximately 2 hours, where the teachers sell kits and materials. Pattern room, where there are new patterns for sale along with the finished basket on display. And of course there is exhibit room, where you get to see the shared baskets and the juried baskets. All these things are arranged so that you have time to shop and view, and still get in plenty of weaving and visiting.
All the materials that were presented to me in classes for my baskets were all very nice. I found the whole convention scene to be a lot of fun and educational in so many ways. I am not a new weaver, I have been weaving since around 1987, but I can say that I learned a lot and would readily attend another convention. I encourage anyone thinking they would like to try out convention to join a guild and go for it. It is an experience of a life time. For anyone who has never attended a convention, I have to say I feel it is well worth trying very hard to come up with the extra money to experience this great opportunity.
Here is to next years convention, and finally getting to meet, in person, a lifetime friend. Valerie Miller showed me a wonderful time while at convention, and was my seeing eye person!! Oh, the number of times I tried to walk in the wrong direction! Going from tiny Huson, Montana to Grand Rapids Michigan was a HUGE difference.
All the pictures we are submitting have been submitted by Val, as it seems I took one picture while there! I was far too busy to even think about my camera.