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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsCommunity Members Learn Basket Weaving at the Historical Trust

Community Members Learn Basket Weaving at the Historical Trust

An incomplete, left, and completed egg bottom basket. (Source photo by Adisha Penn)

Weavers continue to keep Virgin Islands culture alive as the St. Thomas Historical Trust concluded another installment of their traditional weaving workshops where participants created egg-bottom baskets.

The workshop was done in partnership with the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts. Eleven individuals set on learning the art of basket weaving signed up for the four-week class, each hoping to understand the intricacies of caning but learned more than just weaving.

“We have been sitting here sharing memories,” said Annamonica Villa, one of the members of the class. “It’s just been a wonderful experience.”

Members of the class were challenged with making eight-inch gizzard-shaped egg baskets, which instructor Lavonne Wise said is not a beginner basket. However, with the intimate instruction the students are receiving, they have made strong progress with their artwork.

Lavonne Wise instructs a participant on how to weave their basket. (Source photo by Adisha Penn)

“I was looking for something fun and creative to do with my mom,” said Patricia Quetel. She signed up for the class with her mother, Margaret Quetel.

Patricia Quetel, left, and Margaret Quetel enjoy each other’s company as they weave their baskets. (Source photo by Adisha Penn)

Family members and friends alike signed up to learn the craft, some looking for something fun to do and others hoping to be able to build a connection with their heritage.

“I regretted the fact that we didn’t have anyone who knew how to make baskets anymore,” said Villa. “I felt we were losing some of our cultural heritage, and I wanted to be a part of preserving it if I could at all.”

The sole male participant of the workshop, Duane Donovan, said that he joined the class because “It was something I always wanted to learn to do. This was an opportunity for it to be done so I jumped on it.”

Duane Donovan preps an anchoring piece for his basket by sharpening one end. (Source photo by Adisha Penn)

The baskets that the participants made, while beautifully woven with cane material and ribbons, do not only serve aesthetic purposes. They are functional as well. The baskets are locally known as market baskets and are also known for carrying produce or even babies.

Though participants of the workshop greatly enjoyed their classes, they expressed that they would make a change to the process they followed. Unable to get hoop vine, the classic material used for gizzard-shaped egg baskets, they used imported cane material. In constructing more baskets, the members of the class are looking forward to using local materials like the hoop vine, scientifically known as the trichostigma octandrum, instead of imported material.

Workshop participant Brigitte Berry poses with her completed basket. (Source photo by Adisha Penn)

Wise, who has been caning for over 20 years, has been instructing the caning classes at the Trust since the latter part of 2020 after the passing of seasoned and skilled caner Kenneth Richards. Wise said she looked forward to coming back to teach the craft.

“Everyone wanted to do the gizzard egg bottom basket or the demijohn wrap,” said Wise, referencing the requests members of the previous caning class had of future classes. “When COVID calmed down I was delighted to. This is an amazing group of human beings. Everybody is intelligent and fun and really really into it. So it’s been a pleasure for me to come here and teach cultural heritage arts with the Trust again.”

Members of the basket weaving workshop at the St. Thomas Historical Trust are near completion of their baskets. (Source photo by Adisha Penn)

More information about the St. Thomas Historical Trust can be found on their website at https://www.stthomashistoricaltrust.org/.

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