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Preserving the art of basket weaving

There is something extremely satisfying about taking one-dimensional materials and creating something three dimensional that’s both functional and beautiful,” says Beth Crabb.

Crabb is a retired social worker and professional basket weaver and has been teaching basketry for many years. In 2007, she was selected as one of three artists who travelled to Ottawa to represent Moose Jaw as one of the Cultural Capitals of Canada.

Growing up in the small hamlet of Baildon, south of Moose Jaw, Crabb enjoyed the quiet of the country and gave her an appreciation of nature. “This love of the natural world grew greatly when my husband Byron introduced me to northern Saskatchewan with its ancient landscape of trees, rocks and water,” she says. The couple now lives in Moose Jaw.

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Her involvement with basket weaving began in 1991 when she and Byron attended an art school in Crete, Nebraska for a week. “I’ve always been intrigued by baskets and their shapes and construction, so it seemed like a marvellous opportunity to pursue that interest. It was a fabulous week of very hard work, sore hands, and ended in my determination to continue weaving.”

After that first workshop, Crabb ordered instructional books and reed from supply houses in the U.S. intent on learning more.

“Rattan grows in warm tropical climates like Indonesia; it is a climbing palm, so is a readily renewable resource,” Crabb says. “Reed is what rattan is called after it has been machined to create uniform widths and thicknesses.”

Crabb is also involved in dyeing the reed. “Over the years I’ve tried many different dyes, and now use a procion mx type that fibre artists use, as it is very stable and fade resistant.”

In 2000, the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery asked if she would be willing to teach a class, and “it has been 15 years of teaching an annual class for them,” Crabb said.

She has also taught at Shekinah’s Sask River Valley Art School, the Alberta Wildlife Carving Association’s Carving in the Park, and Shuswap School of Carving and Art, in B.C. “Teaching basket weaving is very enjoyable for me, in that I get to foster my students’ growth as they learn a new skill and develop their sense of design,” Crabb said.

Her baskets have been exhibited in numerous galleries and are in private collections across Canada.

For more information, call (306) 692-6667, or contact Crabb by email. †

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