Vic­to­ria Vanier, Ste-cather­ine-de-hat­ley

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE -

With Easter just around the corner it seemed like the most op­por­tune time to find out about the time-hon­oured craft of bas­ket weav­ing. Some of the nicest bas­kets I had ever seen were at an an­tique store in Ayer’s Cliff and they were made by Mary Rol­land, so

I gave her a call.

“I saw a fam­ily mak­ing beau­ti­ful bas­kets at the Old Skills Ex­hi­bi­tion in Comp­ton a few years ago and I went nuts,” said Mrs. Rol­land with her usual can­dor. “Then I saw an ar­ti­cle in the Stanstead Jour­nal about bas­ket weav­ing cour­ses at the Old Stone House Mu­seum in Ver­mont. I brought a friend and we learnt how to make three ba­sic bas­kets,” Mary ex­plained. Her en­thu­si­asm for bas­ket weav­ing must have been con­ta­gious be­cause soon over a dozen women were head­ing to Ver­mont to­gether from the Town­ships for lessons.

Sit­ting in Mary’s kitchen in Ste. Cather­ine-de-hat­ley sur­rounded by over a dozen beau­ti­fully wo­ven bas­kets, it’s ob­vi­ous that all the lessons in Ver­mont have paid off. “A typ­i­cal bas­ket takes about six or seven hours to com­plete. The rim­ming takes time, and mak­ing the base and get­ting the han­dle on,” she said, show­ing me the dif­fer­ence be­tween a tight rim (the ideal) and a looser rim on one of her ear­lier bas­kets. “The nice thing about bas­ket mak­ing is that your first bas­ket looks great. And even if you are all thumbs, you can still do it. It’s an out­let for my creative side, it’s chal­leng­ing some­times, and it’s sat­is­fy­ing be­cause they al­ways turn out beau­ti­fully.”

It seems only nat­u­ral that Mrs. Rol­land, who has worked as a teacher for most of her ca­reer, would soon be giv­ing cour­ses her­self in bas­ket mak­ing. “I first gave it a whirl at the Ma­gog Com­mu­nity School. The stu­dents en­joyed it and came away with two bas­kets each.” Be­fore long Mary be­gan hold­ing reg­u­lar bas­ket weav­ing classes in her home to keep up with the de­mand of the novice bas­ket weavers to im­prove their skills. “Now I have an ad­vanced be­gin­ners group and a be­gin­ner’s group. The ad­vanced group can adapt pat­terns and that’s fun to do. They are get­ting quite adept at tack­ling dif­fer­ent projects and af­ter only a year have made about fif­teen bas­kets each. There are four in the be­gin­ner’s group and they’ve made two bas­kets, so they’re on the road. It’s fun to see the light go on in some­one’s eyes as they learn a new skill.”

Bas­ket weav­ing seems like a pop­u­lar craft of late and one with ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits. Groups at Men­tal Health Es­trie and at CAB RH Rediker en­joy bas­ket weav­ing ses­sions. But de­spite its pop­u­lar­ity, find­ing the ma­te­rial in Canada to make bas­kets is chal­leng­ing. “I hunted all over for a Cana­dian sup­plier but couldn’t find one. So now we all buy from Caro­line who taught the cour­ses at the Old Stone House Mu­seum. We do what we call a ‘field trip’,” said Mary. “The Na­tive Amer­i­cans use ash to make their bas­kets but that goes for about $100 a pound. Most peo­ple to­day use a cheaper al­ter­na­tive that is still en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and the han­dles are made out of hick­ory,” she added.

When asked what, be­sides the beau­ti­ful, sturdy and long-last­ing bas­kets, peo­ple seem to get out of the bas­ket weav­ing groups, Mrs. Rol­land said thought­fully: “They re­ally en­joy the so­cial as­pect. It’s in­ter­est­ing to see a sense of be­long­ing and their con­fi­dence de­velop; some are do­ing bas­kets at home now. And to see how co­he­sive the group has be­come,” said Mary as she wove her two hands to­gether demon­stra­tively, with­out notic­ing the con­nec­tion to her craft. “They teach each other now.”

“I en­joy tak­ing scraps of wood and cre­at­ing art; ev­ery bas­ket is a piece of art. But what I en­joy most is shar­ing the ex­cite­ment. With any creative process, if you find like­minded peo­ple it adds to the en­joy­ment,” she con­cluded.

Mrs. Rol­land will soon be start­ing up an­other be­gin­ner’s bas­ket weav­ing group. For more in­for­ma­tion or to join this group call 819 838-1421.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Mary Rol­land has been mak­ing bas­kets for sev­eral years and en­joys shar­ing the craft with oth­ers.

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