Summer 2020 Newsletter
Quote for the month

Making something from nothing is what craftspeople do every single day. Let’s call it magic because that’s what it feels like sometimes. The power of creation is beautiful to behold. ….. it’s informed by a lifetime of doing, thinking and dreaming.”
Hrag Vartanian, Textile Artist
Dear Readers,

For all of us dealing with the restraints and distress of covid, being able to create right now is a true blessing. I’ve seen some wonderful “covid baskets” posted on Facebook and enjoyed the stories by the weaver accompanying them. It is important to not let our creative juices shut down right now. Our minds and spirits need beauty and joy more than ever before. I know there is immense heartache for people who cannot see their grandchildren, cannot visit loved ones in retirement/nursing homes, and are feeling very isolated. This is such a difficult time. 
I found a show on Netflix that really cheers me up and has helped through the many hours of stay-at-home boredom. It’s given me a creative/mental boost more times than I can count. It also warms the heart. It’s called The Repair Shop. The cozy show is filmed at The Weald and Downland Living Museum, just outside Chichester, England. There are 40 acres of historical rural buildings and the show takes place in one of the barns. This BBC show features experts who fix the “unfixable”, restoring all kinds of treasured items - from furniture, antique clocks, vases/pottery, paintings and ironwork - to their former glory. One of the touching things about this show are the personal stories each person brings along with their damaged item, telling the family history, perhaps of how it survived the bombing in WWII, or about a damaged captain’s dresser that was used by her male ancestors on sailing vessels for the past 300 years. Everything arrives in disastrous shape and leaves in the most amazing condition. Watching the experts use their highly refined skills to bring life back to all these items is quite wondrous. I always have a warm feeling in my heart after watching an episode. Hope anyone who checks it out enjoys it as much as me.

In a recent newsletter by Bonnie Gibson (gourd artist extraordinaire!!) she states “Nobody could make up the strange and terrible things that have happened in 2020. I feel like we are living in a weird futuristic dystopian novel.” That about sums up many peoples’ experiences this year, including my own. In January my husband found a cancerous lump on his neck, which was fortunately successfully removed. In February we lost a very dear friend because she ate an egg from a friend and got salmonella. Also in February my husband had to go to the hospital for several days for high fever and severe lung infection and now is on heart medicine. In late March I finally realized that it is not feasible to teach right now with Covid-19, so with a heavy heart I cancelled all my upcoming classes for 2020. That has brought me great sadness. Teaching basketry is incredibly rewarding as I help students learn and grow in their skills and the enthusiasm they bring into my life is so fulfilling and makes me so happy. Two weeks ago I lost one of my closest friends which has absolutely devastated me. Last week my mother in law died. And there’s been several times when we thought we might have to put our beautiful 14 year old dog Sasha to sleep, but she keeps rebounding with gusto, fortunately because I really can’t bear the thought of any more sorrow.
I’m late getting this issue of my newsletter out because of the things going on this year. It's been challenging to stay upbeat and I didn't want to write a doomsday newsletter. But this week while I was sitting in a low chaise on our patio and reaching down stroking our doggie in her favorite places, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with joy that we still have Sasha, and BECAUSE of Covid she has gotten hundreds of hours of extra massages, belly rubs and loving because I’m home nearly all the time. The warmth and joy that filled my heart reminded me of the importance of “being in gratitude.” So I started to reflect on all the things I have gratitude for and the list kept growing. That really lifted my spirits. It’s a good thing to be reminded to have gratitude. It can help you through the most dire circumstances.
Several months ago when Covid first surged and no one knew if supplies were going to become scarce, I decided to get a milk-making machine so we wouldn’t have to rely on purchasing milk in the store (we use non dairy milks). So I ordered oats in bulk not realizing the quantity I had ordered. I was horrified when a bag of oats the size of a giant bag of dog food arrived and I fully expected some snarky comment from my husband, but fortunately that didn’t happen! Using my new Soyajoy milk machine, we now have an endless supply of oat milk. I feel like a pioneer woman, well, except for the fact that I have electricity and refrigeration! I also started grinding the oats to make my own oat flour for baking. It’s interesting how a crisis can get you to look at alternatives.

My recent “Mystery Box” sale was a huge success! I was flooded with orders and worked hard to put together special packages for each recipient. If you're interested in getting supplies at a HUGE DISCOUNT, send me an email and I will send you a list of what I have available. The "Mystery Boxes" contain an assortment of beads and cabochons that I choose specifically for you based on your answers to a few questions, in addition to any other supplies you may need. Since I had anticipated a full teaching schedule for 2020, I am well stocked. Here’s some of the comments I received from customers…

I thi nk I wi ll need to put a Do Not Disturb sign on my studio door!!

Your wonderful package arrived today...and I thank you for the necessities as well as the gorgeous array of gems.

I received my surprise box and what a surprise it was!! You picked out lovely pieces. I’m not sure I can even say I like one more than another! The piece from Chicago is beautiful- delicate and so special! I love the fossil! Each cabochon is so pretty. 
I was a little overwhelmed when I opened the box!
The pine needles are nothing like the ones I used previously. They are so delicate! 
What gorgeous EVERYTHING! I am so very happy with my goodies... everything is amazing. And GREAT beads too! I’ll go nutso trying to decide what to use first. I am delighted with your choices for me... it’s all stunning.
Just like Christmas! Love... the word is LOVE my treasures!
The next part of this newsletter is the most important part for me. I have a story to tell. It’s about a wonderful person and basketweaver named Bonnie Gray. I want my readers to get to know her.

I n 1996 one of my first basket workshops after I quit the AAA was with a group of seniors. One student was having great difficulty comprehending and constantly interrupted me with questions, rarely letting me complete a single sentence. Another student got up and said she’d be happy to help, went and sat next to that student, and worked with her the entire class, or “tried” would be a better word. After class I met this wonderful woman whose name is Bonnie Gray. We learned we lived less than 10 minutes from each other and exchanged phone numbers. Bonnie quickly became one of most precious gifts in my life. Bonnie loved to basket weave, decorate gourds and make gourd drums. For 20+ years we wove and played together as often as possible. Since we lived close, we could run over to each other’s house if only for an hour or two. She was also my “creativity consultant” – I would show her the pieces that stumped me and she would always have a fresh perspective and clever suggestions. 
Bonnie would sign up for every basketry workshop possible, unless it interfered with her volunteer work with Love on a Leash where she took her certified dogs to visit nursing and Alzheimer homes. She loved to learn no matter what the plant material – willow, cane, barks, pine needles, but her favorite was plaiting with natural materials such as philodendron sheaves and orange tipped draco dracaena, materials that drive me crazy! They don’t cooperate as easily as pine needles and require lots of tiny clothes pins and water. She was also incredibly clever with seaweed – making wreaths and bracelets which I think are her original ideas.  
Bonnie was deeply connected to nature. She often called Mother Earth her mother. She was not raised by her mother who was put in a tuberculosis clinic right after Bonnie's birth, so she found nurturing in nature and had a unique passion for the natural beauty that abounds. She was always on the lookout for interesting plants to collect and use in her own artwork. Bonnie couldn’t pass a red/gold leaf on the sidewalk during Fall despite her growing collection of pressed dried leaves and flowers. As we drove places, she would gaze out the car window admiring the colors of foliage with the changing of seasons while gasping with joy and awe.

She would go as often as possible to an archery range in a beautiful old growth oak grove. When she’d get off work, she’d run out there if only for an hour. She felt a tremendous sense of peace when among the oaks. Bonnie was a superb archer. She once told me as a child in Wisconsin she would shoot an arrow up high and would have to move out of the way because if her aim was true, it would come right back down to where she had been standing. She won numerous competitions and Senior Olympic awards for archery. She did not use a compound bow which assists the archer, but instead used a long bow. A couple times I tried to pull back the string and it barely budged! Her skinny body contained so much strength.
Bonnie assisted me in teaching lavender crafting classes at an organic lavender farm. She helped hundreds of students over the years with their baskets or wreath-making projects. She seemed to never tire, never lost her patience with students, and the students could see she was such a gentle soul. So many of them told me she enriched the class just by being her!

Bonnie liked to supplement the lavender with other plants for color and texture and one time she even scaled a fence to get on a freeway onramp to collect purple statice for the students! 
For several years Bonnie was my shopping buddy for rocks and gems at a funky town called Quartzsite, Arizona. Many times I’d walk through a booth, my eyes quickly scanning the items and be ready to leave when Bonnie would call me back because she spotted some delightful treasure I had overlooked. She had a keen eye for beauty and could see the potential in all things.
Bonnie made the purpose of her life to be of service to others. She choose her field to help people.   Bonnie was a psych nurse, social worker and hospice worker. She had an extraordinary ability to understand people, to have insight into human behavior. She helped me a great deal during family dramas over the years.

I had problems with tendinitis in my hands/arms for a long time and she would come over and happily clean, cut and scrape out my gourds so I could decorate them. One time I mentioned since my husband was out of town I wasn’t able to have a fire in the hearth, so she grabbed his heavy axe and went to town making kindling for me! 
Ten years ago she developed Alzheimer’s and eventually became in a near vegetative state. I would visit her regularly even though frequently I would sit in my car sobbing before and after each visit. She became non responsive and had to be spoon fed. Her hands became clinched frozen claws. Then a miracle happened when she was transferred a couple years ago to a wonderful nursing home in Pacific Beach (San Diego). The facility director said he had never seen anyone come back from Alzheimer’s. Her hands unfurled, she became alert, was able to feed herself and handle cups of beverages, she would read my t-shirts and smile at the content, and could read the subtitles at the bottom of the muted t.v. screen. She would have conversations with me and her family and her clever wit returned. We all rejoiced over getting Bonnie back. Then Covid struck and no one could visit the home. She asked why no one came anymore. I know a lot of readers have this situation in their own families, not being able to visit loved ones in nursing/rest homes and it’s agonizing. Bonnie passed peacefully on June 8. I will think of her always when I see trees reddening with Fall, when I see kelp beds when we’re boating. In fact I think of her every day.
It was an indescribable privilege to call her a friend. To anyone who just read Bonnie’s story, thank you. Through you, Bonnie has lived just a little longer, and perhaps you’ll think of her from time to time. That’s my final gift to her.

May you and your loved ones be safe and well. Remember that Spirit/God, love, gratitude, connecting with loved ones, and creating can help each of us through this crisis. None of us are alone.

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Nadine Spier
Contemporary Pine Needle Basketweaver
​Basket Weaving Classes and Basket Art for Purchase
1084 N El Camino Real Box B184, Encinitas CA 92024 (760) 533-1000