This summer of 2016 was full of adventure...the FIRST adventure of Bessie as an itinerant caning vehicle. You see...Bessie used to be a 16 passenger bus for a school. About 8 years back, Sue acquired her because she had a wide berth, lots of space , and could haul just about anything she could imagine. Sheetrock, supplies for the house, wedding flowers, a flea market haul. Bessie was accommodating, and never complained! She was like "the little train that could"
While Sue was driving Bessie around from place to place, she always envisioned her as more of an extension of her vision and a partner to her (sometimes crazy) plans. Bessie had potential. Besides being an optimal carrier, a "camel of the 'burbs" Bessie had an attitude. She liked to be noticed and had a bit of an ego. "Look what I can do for you" , she grinned. "20 chairs? Sure! A bevy of trade and art shows week after week? Bring it on!! I can sneak that EZ up behind the front seats, you won't even know it's there!"
Load after load were eased, nudged, gracefully (or tried at least) into the confines of the interior. A game of chair stacking in the large expanse where the bus seats used to be anchored down, now removed. A loop carpet, custom fit, protected the bottom and the wares it carried.
One bench seat, left to accommodate car seats of grandchildren (who love to see the view from higher up on the road) became the puzzle piece of smaller units like stools and kid size chairs, snuggled in with baskets.
"I need my tools with me" , Sue said. *wink wink* said Bessie...and nodded to her doors. PERFECT!! A spot to carry tools, with a little ingenuity from Sue. Get the old jeans (you know we all have some) , take the back panels off, design and retro-fit them to accommodate the hammers, pegs, awls, screwdrivers, zip ties, s-hooks and anything needed to work off-site or set up a market or trade show event. Let's make this workshop mobile!
Nothing goes to waste, everything has a use. But...if you are at a show , schlepping lots of "stuff" there might be a bit of a mess inside!! No fear...Sue will make a "door" to shield the inner workings of the transport, while showcasing the materials needed to rush, cane, weave and repair your chairs. Dropcloth, zippers and Velcro are our best friend. Ingenuity abounds, strategic placement is important.
Sue had planned to fix up a vintage camper to tow behind Bessie, but as the walls were torn apart for repair it became obvious that it wasn't going to happen in time for the 9th Annual Seatweavers Guild Gathering. So, Bessie got a new bench / bed built in the back. Cushions that will eventually be back in the camper were upholstered, and a bench was created with turn-of-the-century oak table legs that had been cut down to coffee table size years ago. Apple crates store an assortment of reeds and splints. Lidded baskets became clothes hamper and EZ-Up side wall storage units. A trunk got a facelift with a bright turquoise paint, wallpapered inside and separators put in to utilize as a dresser and storage unit. Camera and laptop gear could be locked in for safety if needed. Lifted onto a bench, there was room underneath for clear tubs of gear.
Curtains became dual-purpose. The waistbands from the jeans became the loops for the curtains, remaining dropcloth from the back door became the body of the curtains and pockets were added to hold tools or camping gear. Closed for privacy, opened for traveling.
Bessie was ready to go on a two week adventure. A couple weeks before she left, she got a visit from Kara Sundland of WFSB Channel 3. Bessie and Sue were delighted to share their love of chairs.
It was time to take Bessie on her maiden itinerant tour. Loaded with chairs for the museum at the Silver River Center for Chair Caning and materials to teach a class on weaving with leather belts for the 9th Annual SeatWeavers Guild Annual Gathering Add a couple of chairs to cane, some flat seats to rush...she was all set. The Gathering was held in Asheville, North Carolina. Clifftop, a huge music festival in West Virginia was being held right after the Gathering. So, Bessie and Sue extended their trip and went to spend time with friends Jane Rothfield and Allan Carr . Her photography and videography gear was also on board to do some promotional work for Jane and Allan.
After all, it was a "workation", not a "vacation". The appeal of getting on the road, bringing work along and deciding where to stop and cane or rush was the inspiration behind the entire project. After being tied to one location at previous jobs, the dream of working where I can, when I can was finally a realization. I mean really...I can cane in my backyard or home studio, or I can cane surrounded by amazing musicians in the mountains of West Virginia, or surrounded by peers and fellow #chairnerds in Asheville. What would you do?
Some folks asked me "why?" My answer.. #becauseIcane
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I'll continue the adventure and give you some insight and hopefully inspiration with the stories of "Bessie's Adventures"