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Happy 30TH Birthday BABM


In 1987, when founding member Maxine Kirmeyer described the initial 1984 meeting of the group that would later call itself the Bay Area Basket Makers, she wrote:“…it began with four of us sitting in a big empty room wondering if anyone would join us. We knew we wanted to make our meeting[s] interesting, stimulating, and (most of all) fun.  It would be a time for us to share ideas & techniques. After all, it is easy to feel alone while making baskets as it is a quiet, introspective type of craft. This would be our time to share with other basket makers the joys and even the failures of our work.”

Founding member Maxine

Founding member Maxine Kirmeyer


Maxine wrote that, “for the first year, we hoped people would come. When they did come, we asked our members to present programs without pay.”  Initial meetings were held at the Kirmeyer School of Fiber Studies in San Jose every two months, and then in different meeting places throughout the Bay Area to “make the travel time more equal” for an expanding membership spanning Santa Rosa to Monterey.

Speakers were invited to meetings—the very first was Shirley Fite, who handled the dyeing of basket materials at the Kirmeyer School.  She was followed by Jude Silva, a founding BABM member, who “shared her work and herself with us in a generous way” (current BABMPresident Nancy Briemle joined after that meeting!), and then Maxine herself, who gave a slide supported lecture of her work and that of other well-known basket artists such as Dorothy Gill Barnes, Shereen LaPlantz, Jane Sauer, and Hisako Sekijima.

Christmas party 1989 at Maxine's studio

Christmas party 1989 at Maxine’s studio

The first BABM newsletter went out—a one-pager–under the auspices of editor Jean Goza in June, 1984; within a year, her successor, Norma Strickland, was publishing a more substantial newsletter, and membership had grown to 25, including present guild members Jan Muto, Jim Widess, Michele Hament, & Elaine Hill, as well as Shereen LaPlantz, and profiled artist Kathleen Hubbard, then an employee of Jimʼs Caning Shop in Berkeley and soon-to-be BABMʼs second president. In September 1985, the membership meeting was held in the tule marshes of Lake Elizabeth near San Jose to gather rushes to twine Ohlone mats.

Display at 1992 Conference in Benicia

Display at 1992 Conference in Benicia

By 1985, the Guild had been accepted and recognized as the first basketry guild in the Conference of Northern California Handweavers, and exhibited traditional and contemporary work to “help educate the public about basketry today” at that yearʼs CNCH Conference. A year later, BABM members demonstrated Maori basketry techniques at CNCH ʼ86, after a plaiting workshop led by member Susan Jamart teaching South Pacific basketry skills with New Zealand flax.  Among 1987 BABM events was a Nantucket Lightship Basket demonstration taught at the Caning Shop by Easterner Bill Pope, a slide show lecture by the chief research anthropologist at the Lowie Museum of Anthropology, and a successful guild show at the Adobe Gallery in Castro Valley.

BABM at work

BABM at work

Current Guild member Susan Correia recalls enthusiastically joining after attending the Adobe show and watching Jan Muto and others demonstrate basketry techniques: “I was hooked!”

By 1988, Jim Widess was newsletter editor (later followed by Susan Correia), Elaine Hill was historian, and Sandy Bowers had the post of secretary under new President Cheryl Provost, while Norma Fox served as Events Coordinator. BABMʼs reputation was well- established locally, and soon gained national renown, winning the “Most Original Guild” award at the 1990 Michigan Basketry Show, and additional recognition as BABM organized and presented the Connecting Threads Through Basketry Exhibit at the prestigious Convergence 1990 Conference in San Jose.

BABM Group photo

Current BABM Group photo

So we have every reason to celebrate the 30 year history of Bay Area Basket Makers and all our hard work, good friends, guild adventures and challenges, and the fulfillment of the Guildʼs central goal of educating ourselves and others about the fun and artistry of basketry.



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