This Fiber Art Now guest post was graciously submitted by fiber artist and writer, Cindi Serfes.
Of course I’m generally familiar with basket making, but was not fully familiar with the art of basketry and therefore delved into some research in order to better understand her artwork.
I am amazed by the talent possessed here, as well as how deep rooted in civilization basket making is – it goes back 12k to 14k years. And because they often use locally-sourced grasses and materials, it seems to me that it must be the first truly green art form. Rich in heritage and creativity, her work is mostly utilitarian, from storage to fashion. Here is what I found out from our conversation:
FAN What brought you to want to create baskets? What piqued your interest in learning basket making?
PT My grandmother was 1/4 Native American. Though we cannot trace what tribe her maternal grandmother was from, as her mother was put up for adoption as a toddler, my grandmother seemed to have a vast knowledge of plants and their uses. Growing up helping her with her garden piqued the interest in me to learn all I could about plants and their uses. My love of plants and the idea of taking natural materials and creating useful objects just seem right!
FAN Do you come from a family of artists?
PT I am number 5 of 6 kids. Both of my parents are artistic and both worked very hard! My mother sold furniture and was an interior designer. I remember her, when I was a child, painting, drawing, and sewing and creating, in whatever free time she had – raising 6 kids. She still loves to make art. My father taught all of us how to work with tools and fix things on our own. Plumbing, electric, woodwork, building things… we learned that we could do it all on our own. Finances were a bit tight, so doing things yourself is what we were taught. He is now retired from his accounting business and, as an accountant, he taught us to ‘work for it’ – whatever it was we wanted.
My eldest brother is a graphic artist and architect. My other brother is trained in architecture as well, but works as an electrician. One sister is a landscape architect and has quite an impressive resume. My eldest sister works in Information Systems Design and the youngest is an accountant, like our father. We all did well in mathematics in school. I loved Geometry the best!
FAN Have you always been interested in a creative, artistic form of work?
PT I have loved playing in the woods, weaving cattails for forts and making sling shots, bows and arrows… and playing with willow bark and plants since I can remember. I was a tom boy and always had a fabulous time in the woods and fields by our home in Brookfield, Wisconsin.
Since grade school, I won many awards and scholarships for my artwork. Creating 3 dimensional work, weaving on a loom, sewing, crochet, making jewelry, working on the pottery wheel or carving wood – creating art and useful items has always kept me busy! I am happiest in nature and love learning about plants, their properties and their uses.
I have always been interested in archeology and anthropology and basket weaving is an ancient art! It wasn’t until 1994, making my first pine needle basket, that I fell in love with basketry – which combines my love of plants, nature, history and functional art so beautifully! I have been hooked ever since.
As Pam states, she started weaving baskets in 1994, and has traveled to many locations state-side, as well as abroad, learning many different techniques in basket weaving. She has won awards from the Association of Michigan Basket-makers:
- AMB Best Coiled for General Membership in 2003
- The Teachers awards for both Coiled and Naturals 2004
- Coiled in 2005
- Both Coiled and Art Piece in 2006
- AMB best coiled Teacher in 2009
- AMB Viewer’s Choice Award in 2010
All of this talent and expertise has led Pam to teach, she travels the world teaching her craft. And will be showcasing her teaching skills at the upcoming National Basketry Organization 2015 Conference; July 14th-18th, 2015 at Macalester College, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Being recognized by your peers to be able to celebrate your skills in the form of teaching at the national conference is a huge honor in and of itself. Hats off to you Pam Talsky!