Teaching Nantuckets Off-Campus

The 2015 Florida Tropical Weavers’ Guild Conference was held at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center in Leesburg, Florida from March 19-22.  One of the 2½ day work-shops was Nantucket Lightship Basket Weaving.  Here’s what the brochure said:

website art

Create a Classic Nantucket Basket  — Don Ferris, Instructor. Nantuckets are beautiful, intricate heirlooms. Help preserve the history of these treasures by experiencing every critical step in the process and creating an authentic classic. You’ll craft and set up the staves, weave the entire basket, complete the rim, do the finishing steps and dress it with “scrimshaw”. Students also receive an exclusive, take-home review manual to help complete future projects. It’s an enriched learning environment with both student-to-student and student-to-teacher reinforcement.

It was a touch-and-go as to whether I’d be able to make it.  I’d signed the contract in the Spring of 2013, too late for the 2014 roster.  Like the Campbell School, they book teachers a year ahead.

The problem, if you haven’t picked it up in another story, is that the over-exertion of remodeling  our Florida house during the preceding five months caused my right leg to start buckling without notice.  It was a combination of my already compromised back and a pinched nerve.  I started exercises to rebuild the quadriceps, but I was still not very mobile.

The Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center is a 300 acre facility with a mile of lakefront, about half way between us and Orlando.  It was founded in the 1960’s as a retreat and youth ministry center.  Starting with two camps and an administration building, it has grown exponentially to include adult accommodations, full food service, multiple conference rooms . . . and a campground!  I drove the Big Horn over there on Thursday. Dot and  friends Keith and Cherie followed and took care of setup and unloading all of my supplies into the classroom.

With a cane and a  lot of care, I was able to make it back and forth to my classroom and meals.  Rather than walk around the studio, I gathered my eight students around me for instruction.  They were very gracious about bringing their problems to my central station rather than make me hop around.

I can normally teach the course in 15 hours.  In this case, we were pinched for time, because the time frame was condensed, leaving no room for the “overtime” that most students put in.  As a result, some of them were unable to complete the last step. I was prepared, however to send them home with the necessary finish, brush and plastic gloves.

Dot and my dear friends came back at the end to rescue me.  I really enjoyed the experience, but it’s much easier to teach here at Sandy Oaks. I can spread out the classes and don’t have to transport a dozen big tubs of equipment and supplies!



Nantucket Lightship Basketweaving at the Campground

Soon after I first arrived at Sandy Oaks, I offered to teach a 15 hour beginner’s class in Nantucket Lightship basketmaking.  Initial reception was not the best, because most people share their skills without charge. I pointed out that all the funds over and above the cost of materials and supplies was sent to Schipperke Rescue.  I taught five students in two sessions.  A man from New Hampshire made two additional baskets while there, bought a mold and lots of supplies, and engaged his son, a furniture maker, to produce more molds for his use.  And a number of people approached me before we left to sign up for the next season.

One of my J.C. Campbell students, 50 miles away in Gainesville, was aching to make a Reyes Friendship Basket, and she enlisted a friend to join her.  The two worked partially at home and partially at the campground, staying down here long enough to get through the difficult parts.

This is really a win-win for me.  I love passing this classic craft on to others, and I am happy to help enrich Schip rescue efforts with much needed cash.

Looking toward the future . . . we attended the Florida Tropical Weavers’ Guild conference in March at the invitation of my new dear friend, Myra Hudson.  Myra, a skilled artisan in loom weaving and numerous other crafts, was the former student from Gainesville who made one of the purses this winter. Myra lured me there to introduce me to Pat Iverson, their director, hoping that Pat would consider me for a teaching gig at a future conference, and I’ve been contracted for March, 2015.