Renfrew Institute's workshop connects kids to crafts of past

July 21, 2010|By DANA BROWN

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Eleven-year-old Quinn Wandalowski learned how to hand-craft a basket and learned something about herself in the process.

"I'm sort of actually surprising myself I can do this," Wandalowski said as she held up her handiwork.

Wandalowski was one of nine young people trying their hand at basketry during the Renfrew Institute's Heritage Crafts Workshop on Wednesday in Waynesboro.

Instructor and professional basket maker Sue Matson led students through the four-hour-long workshop teaching them to gently weave water-softened reeds into a functional, Williamsburg-style basket they could take home.

The hands-on basketry workshop was one of five craft sessions offered through the Renfrew's Summer Institute 2010. The series of half-day workshops are designed to provide students with an experiential learning opportunity that teaches them a new skill and fosters a sense of the history.


Tracy Holliday, assistant director of the Renfrew Institute for Cultural and Environmental Studies, said the Heritage Crafts Workshops are an extension of the Institute's school program series.

The workshops are designed to connect young people to the crafts of the past, she said.

"The mission is to guide them to become stewards of their natural and cultural world," Holliday said.

Matson said she hopes the students gain a new understanding of the art of basket making, and an appreciation for what goes into hand-made crafts of all kinds.

Some things just have to be hand made, she said, and baskets are one of them.

"The appreciation of a handmade thing is something that if we don't encourage it in children, it will no longer be made," she said.

"It's a little tedious," said workshop helper Margaret Lutzke of Waynesboro. "You really appreciate a basket after you do this."

Nicole Henderson, 11, of Waynesboro, said she learned that it takes patience to make a quality basket by hand.

"You have to take your time to do it. You can't rush," Henderson said. "It's kind of neat doing all this and it stays together without glue or nails, or anything,"

Kendra Berkebile, 11, of Waynesboro, said the process surprised her.

"When we started it was just a whole bunch of pieces of wood and a handle," she said. "I didn't know what it would look like."

While Henderson said she will put her basket on display at home "so it doesn't get ruined," Berkebile said she plans to put her basket to good use by carrying her lunch in it when she attends re-enactments with her family.

"That's so very cool," Birkebile's mom, Jessica Dean, said as she carefully looked over her daughter's handiwork.

Dean, who home schools Kendra, said the Renfrew Institute's summer workshops provide a unique creative outlet that sparks new interests and promotes further learning. She said she hopes her daughter's interest in basketry continues and that she wants to learn more about the craft.

"I encourage it," Dean said. "Kids will create things, but you have to show them other ways to be creative. Once you introduce that to them, they can explore it more."

Nora Slick, summer institute coordinator, credited local artisans for their willingness to participate as a big reason for the success of the Heritage Crafts series. Each year different crafts people sign on to teach the summer workshops, she said.

"They are definitely passing on their skills and knowledge, and an appreciation of our cultural past," Slick said.

Other workshop offerings included creating a homemade leather project, learning to work with metal to create a pierced-tin project, crafting a piece of pottery from redware clay, learning to felt wool, using a drop spindle to make handspun yarn, and using a loom to weave cloth.

"The quality of the projects the kids leave with is really fabulous," Holliday said.

Summer Institute activities are funded in part by contributions to the Today's Horizon Fund by PenMar Development Corp., Nora Roberts Foundation and by an anonymous donor.

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