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Thursday, November 16, 2023

“ART - Ask for More”

Spotlight on Vickie Skavenski, West Virginia

Basketry, art and craft of making interwoven objects, usually containers, from flexible vegetable fibers, such as twigs, grasses, osiers, bamboo and rushes, or from plastic or other synthetic materials. The containers made by this method are called baskets.

Balfet, Hélène J.. "basketry". Encyclopedia Britannica, 20 May. 2019, Accessed 30 October 2023.

Our spotlighted artist this month hails from the great state of West Virginia and is a true-spirited Appalachian, proud of her culture and heritage.  Seeing her basketry artwork in the DKG Arts Gallery found the key to this writer’s heart.  I have always loved baskets and have a collection of my own.  With the combination of nature, tactile sensory, and utilitarian usage, the art of basketry has its beginning in every early and present civilization.  Seeing the beautiful weaving of Vickie Skavenski, West Virginia State Organization President, inspired us to find out more about her journey in keeping this three-dimensional artistry alive and thriving in her community.  Take a twist and turn with us, as we get to know this former 4-Her and college professor.  Always the dedicated teacher, Vickie continues to devote herself to the preservation and love of her Appalachian roots.

Tell us about yourself as an educator and craftmanship artist.

I taught 24 years in a K-12 school at Circleville WV, that had an enrollment of around 200 students. Then the two high schools in the county consolidated and I taught 10 more years at Pendleton County High School. I taught English 11/12, AP English, yearbook and newspaper, speech and drama, and Appalachian Literature and Culture.  I also taught English 101 and 102 for Potomac State College and Eastern WV Community and Technical College.  For several summers I taught English for the Upward Bound program at Davis and Elkins College.

How did your journey begin as a basket weaver?  Are you interested in other avenues of artistry?

When I was in high school, WV Extension sponsored Heritage Weekends to get students interested in Appalachian music, dance, and crafts.  From that time on, I was hooked.  I made my first basket with a friend, and then as a 4-H leader, I began attending craft weekend at Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp where I learned from Barbour County 4-H agent John Lloyd how to make a variety of baskets and how to do reed chair bottoms.

I had a group of students around 1981 at Circleville High School who convinced me that we could do an Appalachian Class after we had performed Jesse Stuart’s “The Thread That Runs So True” as their junior class play.  After receiving permission from the county to add the class, we gathered apples, made cider to sell, and purchased our textbooks - “Voice from the Hills” by Higgs and Manning which had been recommended by Berea College.  From that time until I retired, each class learned how to make a basket and how to do chair bottoms as my personal effort to see that these skills did not die.

Tell us what inspires you and how you developed the artistic basket(s) that you entered in the gallery.

I like to look at patterns and then see if I can make them.  I liked this basket because it had a swing handle, and the autumn metal leaves added to the overall effect.  Some baskets I’ve made because of their names, like the Sunday Go to Meeting basket which women would take to church. They carried whatever they needed, covering the top with a handkerchief. 

What is the best artist advice that you’ve been given by an artist or anyone?

You just need to try—nothing goes wrong when you are trying a new project that can’t be fixed.  Fix it, and go on to finish what you are doing.  I had students who would say, “This is wrong, but I don’t want to take it out.” I would reply, “You will be much happier at the end, if you do.”  Then, together, we would fix it. 

What does the value of the creative arts in education mean to you?

The last two years that I taught, 2006-2008, I was part of a team of teachers (art, music, and drama) that were trained by the WV State Department of Education to go into counties in my RESA to do in-service training on how to incorporate the arts into every classroom.  This was very important to me, because often other teachers do not see a need for the arts.  We all wore buttons that said ART—Ask for More.”

Is the anything else you’d like us to know?

My theme this biennium as WVSO President is “DKG Proud. Proud Women Educators. Proud West Virginians. Proud Appalachians.”  I am planning to work my love for this state and Appalachia into everything that I do.  We are having our Leadership Conference at a beautiful state park where we will have music for the social time on Friday night by the Dulcimer Dames, and we plan to ask local artists and craftsmen to set up during that time.  We are going to work on a speaker’s bureau highlighting writers and artists from our DKG chapters and from the state.

Final thoughts…..

So, the next time you look at a basket; small or large, intricate or simple-weave, think about the artistry that went into its creation.  The Arts & Humanities Jury Committee loves the varied artists and their enthusiasm for the specific medium that we see in the submission process for the Art Gallery.  Vickie Skavenski is no exception.  Her passionate longevity for the craft and willingness to share her talents are truly a treasure for our DKG organization.  Vickie’s basketry will be enjoyed by many for decades to come.  Without a doubt, this WVSO President will be a successful leader as a proud West Virgina DKG sister, educator, and Appalachian.

We invite you to view the Art Gallery, click here.

Keep the conversation going, please use the comment section below to suggest new topics, ask questions, or give us your input. We love hearing from our readers and gaining new ones.  Spread the word!

1 comment:

  1. Vickie, Your passion for basketry is apparent in the photo containing several of your baskets. Passion and pride reflect the dedication and joy for your chosen medium and the work involved. You are continuing a local culture through your teaching efforts. Thank you for keeping basketmaking and craftsmanship alive. Jackie Thomas, DKG Omicron, Pennsylvania…


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