We’re excited to welcome pine needle creations artist Sheri Smith Holgate to Ashland Art Center in a few weeks. Sheri will be teaching two stand-alone workshops on Friday and Saturday, June 13 and 14. On Friday, enjoy an afternoon session making a pine needle pendant that you can wear home, and on Saturday, get immersed in creating an absolutely lovely pine needle basket you’ll treasure. Both workshops include materials and will give you time to work one-on-one with Sheri while learning the skills you need to continue making more pine needle creations after the workshop’s end.
Friday, June 13, Pendant Workshop, 1:00 – 5:00 pm
Saturday, June 14, Basket Workshop, 9:00 – 5:00 pm
Next, read about Sheri’s story.
Meet the Artist: Sheri Smith, Pine Needle Creations
by Luke Fannin
Looking at fiber artist Sheri Smith’s work, all you can think about it is how intricate, detailed, and delicate it appears: the perfect coil and weave of each slender longleaf pine needle, the seemingly tenuous hold of each fine silk thread. At first, her artwork seems as if it wouldn’t survive the slightest touch, the barest whisper of wind.
In truth, these baskets, jewelry, and “sculptural vessels” are much more substantial than they look, and could hold up to a good deal more than a bit of poking and prodding. But not to fire. Barely more than a year ago, Sheri lost her entire collection of baskets when the inn she’d been working at for ten years burned down. It could have been the tragic punctuation of a life dedicated to craft, the end of her life as an artist. But so far, it has only been the beginning.
Sheri has been an avid creator of arts and crafts since childhood. At thirteen she was making beaded jewelry and selling it at the head shops near her Hollywood home. By fifteen she was making purses and selling to department stores. When she moved to the Oregon coast, she started creating driftwood mobiles, which she sold to restaurants.
But it wasn’t until Sheri discovered basketry and weaving that she had found something she knew she was going to stick with. In 1980 she sent out for a splint-fiber weaving kit. It was just a whim, but by the time she had finished her first egg basket, Sheri knew she was onto something. She read everything about basketry she could find, started collecting weaving materials, even began dying her own reeds. And then, in 1983, her sister-in-law took a pine needle weaving class and, losing interest, passed the unfinished basket off to Sheri. She’s been a pine needle weaving specialist ever since.
And then came the fire. It’s difficult to imagine losing all evidence of a major part of your identity. What is a teacher without students? A singer without a voice? It’s important to point out that Sheri has appropriate perspective on the matter. No one was hurt. She had insurance. But it was a tragedy nonetheless, and in the wake of such tragedy, we often hear people talk about the chance for a fresh start. It can be hard, despite our best intentions, not to see this for the hollow cliché it so frequently is. In Sheri’s case, however, it proved to be true. “I was in shock for days,” she recalls. “I just stayed inside and wove all the time.” Her passion for weaving helped her cope in this time of crisis, and at some point in that process she realized it was time to fully devote herself to her craft. Rather than giving up after such a loss, Sheri recognized an opportunity to spend even more time teaching and weaving, and to recreate herself as an artist. “You inspire yourself, really,” she says. “I thought about pieces I had lost, and got excited thinking about what it was I had liked about them.”
We might commend Sheri on her resiliency, or take stock of our own lives — what we take for granted, what we have to lose. For Sheri, it only comes down to one simple fact: “I’m an artist. I just know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Luke Fannin received a Bachelor of Arts in Composition & Rhetoric from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2009, and a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from the University of Oregon in 2012. He lives in Eugene with his wife, Amber, and their son, Ezra. He likes reading books and drinking the many fine craft beers brewed in and around Lane County. Learn more on Luke’s website: lukefannin.com
Explore more of Sheri’s incredible art on her website:
Also, you can see Sheri’s baskets in person at AAC
where we have several of her pieces for sale.
Ashland Art Center
357 E Main Street, Ashland
Open daily, 10-6
Come check them out!