Kathy and Ruth Shroyer
Business: Sisters’ Handcrafted Baskets
City: Hope, Columbus
Columbus Farmer’s Market,
501 Brown St., downtown
Sisters Kathy and Ruth Shroyer were turned on to basket weaving after attending a basket class at Donner Center more than two decades ago. After just two classes, they ordered supplies and never looked back, Kathy Shroyer said.
Today, the sisters weave baskets throughout the winter months to sell at markets and festivals from spring to fall. They joined the Columbus Farmers Market when it first opened in the late 1990s and say some of their best baskets come from customers’ ideas. We posed several questions to Kathy Shroyer.
Talk about the process of creating your items, the time, supplies and skills required.
Our baskets are not made on a mold, so even if you are using the same pattern each basket will vary a little. Most of the baskets we make are from reed imported from the jungles of the Orient. It is a complicated process to harvest the vines, peel the thorny outer layer off after cooking and then cutting the material into different widths and lengths. Because the weaving material is processed by hand, it can vary from roll to roll. It can take a few hours or several days to make a basket, depending on the size and type of material you are using.
What tools are necessary to make your baskets?
You can begin weaving with just a few supplies — sharp scissors, measuring tape, flat-head screwdriver and clothespins. The longer you weave, the more you will find special tools and supplies to make the job a little quicker and easier.
Do you use a pattern?
We have hundreds of basket patterns to choose from, but some of our best baskets come from ideas customers have given us. We often use patterns for just a basic idea, and we add or subtract various parts and incorporate our own ideas.
What’s been one of your most memorable experiences participating in the market?
Being a retired teacher, one of the most satisfying experiences has been when former students come to our booth and tell me they still have the basket they made when they were in elementary school. Weaving with my students in the classroom or in the after-hours program was always one of my favorite activities.
What types of conversations do you have with shoppers?
Children are fascinated by basket weaving, and the little ones like to sit in the rockers that we restore by weaving new seats. It seems that just about everybody has a chair that belonged to grandma or grandpa that needs a new woven or caned seat. People are interested in the process and the history. Many are surprised that basket weaving is not a lost art.
Do you think that people are becoming more interested in locally produced items?
I think most people like to buy as much as they can locally, whether it be food or handcrafted items. It is nice to say, “I know the person who made this basket.”
Do you offer classes in basket weaving?
We give classes at the North Vernon Public Library, 2375 State Road 3, the second Thursday of every month. We often have classes at the Bartholomew County Public Library, 536 Fifth St., and we teach classes in junior high art classes and to home-school groups.
Do you sell your baskets at other locations?
We participate in Hackman’s Fall Festival in October and the Twelve Dames Craft Show in November.
What are your plans when the market ends?
We will take a short break and then start weaving for next year.