Blue Ridge Basketry Now Open in Hedgesville
Almost any day of the week, Shirley Snyder invites you to visit her shop “Blue Ridge Basketry” on Town Spring Street in historic Hedgesville, West Virginia. The shop is within a block of the library and apropos the street name, near the historic Town Spring.
Blue Ridge Basketry baskets are each unique, hand crafted rib baskets made from all natural materials, primarily the reed of the rattan plant. The inside of the stalk is the reed and it’s the same as that used in the reed of the clarinet. Other natural products include black ash, white oak, and vines. A rib basket is what they called in the old days, an egg basket or potato basket, anything constructed using a piece of round reed as the main spoke with weavers that go in and out.
Baskets aren’t the only thing you’ll find at Blue Ridge Basketry however. Some of the pieces in the gallery aren’t even baskets at all. They are contemporary works of art woven around antlers, beaver sticks – sticks the beavers have chewed on, driftwood, old kitchen utensils. “It can be anything” says Shirley. Her most recent find was a fallen limb from one of the large oaks on Route 9 near the center of town. Shirley was drawn in by the knot. Another seemingly innocuous stick her husband picked up while walking at Meadowbrook Farm looks just like a pelican upon further inspection. It became the handle of a beautiful basket.
At Blue Ridge Basketry you will also find all sorts of sun-catchers and decorative gourds. Shirley hand picks the agates for her sun-catchers and she is so excited about the potential with gourds, she boasts 60 gourd plants of various kinds are in her garden behind the shop.
Shirley discovered this creative gift within herself when she took a basket weaving class in September of 1993 as a break from the grind of her retail management position. Within a year she found herself teaching. Basket weaving is something Shirley still loves to share. In three to five hours, a person can finish a basket in class.
A large part of the allure for Shirley is in seeing the creation of something entirely new. She often begins weaving without knowing or having an intended end state. “Sometimes it’s not what you want. I’ve dismantled and started completely over.” And sometimes, “it’s the mistake that makes it unique and special.” In fact, Shaker, Indian and other artisan folklore suggest the idea of a “deliberate mistake” wherein the artisan purposefully makes a mistake in the quest for humility believing only God or Allah could be perfect. In the Indian’s case, the faulty spot gave the evil spirits an escape route.
I don’t think Shirley worries much about evil spirits. I saw more humility than any other character trait. She and her husband Michael relocated to Hedgesville from Hagerstown last spring. They have since been restoring and uncovering the historic log home originally built in 1760 that is now her home as well as her shop, studio and gallery. I found her there working with a delicate wishbone about 4 inches in length.
She stays connected to other weavers and artists thru membership in the High Country Basket Guild in Annandale Virginia,, the Cumberland Valley Guild of Craftsman in Pennsylvania and her baskets can be found at Tamarack among the Best of West Virginia located in southern portion of the state as well as nearby at the Mountain Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival in Harper’s Ferry every Spring and Fall.
Call or stop by to see Shirley Snyder at Blue Ridge Basketry on your next hunt for a gift or a new home accessory such as a wall pocket or a even hamper. Do you have an old basket that was passed down or you loved so much it is in disrepair? Take it in – it can probably be fixed.
Interested in doing the work yourself? Talk to Shirley about one on one personal instruction today or inquire about group classes that will be available later in the year.