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SHEPHERDSVILLE - Forty-five years ago, Thomas Holtkamp’s wife needed seat covers for her chairs, so, naturally, he mastered the craft of seat weaving.
Holtkamp has since become a member of the national seatweaver’s guild and now travels to teach classes.
That’s how he ended up in Shepherdsville for the annual Kentucky Basket Association convention, where weavers from around the region come to learn and practice the art form.
“It doesn’t take a lot of space, tools, and materials are fairly cheap,” Holtkamp said. “It’s a hobby that can be as easy or as complicated as you want.”
Carol Warren, from Goshen, and Tara Steedly, from Pewee Valley, have made the convention an annual girls’ trip. They have weaved for six years, and have taken Holtkamp’s class several times before.
“He is hilarious, and he is a great teacher,” Steedly said. “And making stools is great.”
As Holtkamp made his rounds to check on the women, he teased the women and other visitors about basket weaving.
“You can’t sit on any of those baskets,” he said.
KBA was formed in 1995 and now has about 125 members who pay $15 a year to receive newsletters, invitations to classes, and the opportunity to attend the convention.
“There’s different styles, and the teachers come from all over,” Margo Conch, president of KBA, said. “It’s a time for creativity and relaxation, and meeting new people.”
Conch has been on the KBA board for six years, but has weaved since 1997. A friend, who sat next to her at the convention, taught her the basics, and she joined a guild.
She considers weaving an “undiscovered hobby,” one that she believes isn’t given enough of a chance. As president, Conch has worked to introduce the craft to a younger audience.
“We need to recruit, or the art will die out,” she said. “Once people try it, they really love it.”
Delores Mudd was one of the founding members of KBA, and served as treasurer for years. Though she no longer serves on the board, she participates in Bullitt County’s guild and attends the convention every year.
Mudd, Madonna Cash, and several other women started a guild in Bullitt County two years ago. The group meets the third Friday of every other month. They recruit instructors to host a class, and members pay for each session separately. Cash has taught classes in Bullitt County and surrounding areas for a decade.
“Teaching is really fun,” she said. “It’s getting to be almost a full-time job!”
She excitedly added many new people were joining the guild, both men and women. Members spend the Friday evenings socializing, eating, and weaving, which can take up to eight hours, for the more difficult patterns. E-mail Cash at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
To the convention-goers, weaving is an under-appreciated art form. Holtkamp felt especially strong about the subject, adding that his love for it has never waned.
And the chairs?
“We still have the originals,” he said. “And we’ve never had to redo the seats.”