Art in the City Fiber Festival showcases artist techniques

Kim Hollier, top, of the Louisiana State Arboretum demonstrates the art of pine needle basket making to Jane Dollar, Emme Dusek and Charlene Bishop during a class at the First United Methodist Church on Friday afternoon as part of the Art in the City Fiber Festival. 
POST SOUTH PHOTO/Peter Silas Pasqua

Pine needles were soaking in a tub of water on Friday afternoon waiting their turn to become part of the ancient Native American art of basket making.

They were just some of the examples of fiber art in motion during educational classes at First United Methodist Church that kicked off the third annual Art in the City Fiber Festival hosted by the Plaquemine Main Street Program, River Road Fiber Guild, Iberville Community Quilters and Magnolia Wood Dust Rug Hookers.

Kim Hollier of the Louisiana State Arboretum said while most simply use the baskets for decoration today, they once had a useful purpose.

"Native Americans have been doing this for a long time and they used to make them for a reason," Hollier said. "They would put berries in them or whatever kind of food they were gathering."

Hollier said all that is required are pine needles and something to sew them with. Walnut slices can be added as a foundation, handles or decoration but are not necessary.

"You can make a basket of all different kinds of shapes and sizes," Hollier said. "It depends on how big it is and how fast your are but we get a lot of coasters in this class."

Longleaf needles are preferred because you don't have to add them as often because of their length but Hollier said those from any pine tree are sufficient and you can gather them from your yard if you have one. Beeswax is often added at the end to protect the needles and make the basket stiffer.

"This is something that has probably been done in Louisiana for hundreds of years," added festival chairperson Charlene Bishop. "They didn't have Wal-Mart to go buy containers so they had to make them with what they had available in nature."

Bishop is a fiber artist and knows lots of others so she came up the idea of the festival to bring them together.

"It is public awareness of traditional fiber arts that are becoming very popular again," Bishop said. "Some of us are getting old, so we want to pass these things down to the younger generation and let the public know what they are."

Demonstrations continued on Saturday at the Bayou Plaquemine Waterfront Park and included needlepoint, cross-stitching, knitting, crocheting, cotton and wool weaving, embroidery and rug hooking.

Bishop said students from Brusly High School participated in one of the classes and are starting a fiber club.

Some other classes featured embroidery including traditional Japanese techniques and silk-screen painting.

Instructor Kristi Dusek said Japanese Temari balls begin as Styrofoam that is covered with yarn before designs are made with a needle and thread.

"If you take a pin and put a ribbon on it, you can hang it," said Gerdie Campo.

Marva Goodman, a juried member of the Mississippi Craftsman Guild, was also busy teaching the art of silk-screen painting.

"It is a method of putting soft paint through a pattern that has been made into a screen," Goodman said. "It gives you a design on clothing or whatever you want to apply it to. We are doing it on bandanas and silk scarves. It is a very old method of painting fabrics and papers but we are doing it using shaving cream."

Goodman said it is an inexpensive way to decorate items you wear.

"The interest is there," Goodman said. "These ladies are having fun."