• Sue Muldoon

Caning and the Covid Carousel


The Year of Teaching….reinvented!


2020 was supposed to be the “Year of Teaching”. I have been teaching more and more lately and focused on building up my classes for 2020...it worked! Until Covid, of course.

A busy schedule of teaching seatweaving and basketry circled the drain once all events began cancelling and folks started quarantining. Staying safe, an important priority, left all of us scrambling and reevaluating.


Northeast Basket Association, Hartford Stitch, North Bennet Street School, Connecticut Valley Woodworking, New York Sheep and Wool Festival and of course...the 2020 SeatWeaver’s Guild Gathering. *POOF* Over 100 opportunities to inspire new weavers to “come to the weaving side” of life.


While deeply immersed in covid-cooking,., stretching the dough from the newly acquired sourdough hobby …I could ponder what was next . Rolling out sourdough crackers, making sourdough English muffins, sourdough pancakes and sourdough waffles (I’m sure there’s more) meant no discard was left behind. But I could only quarantine bake (and consequently eat) for so long.


As it became apparent that life wasn’t going to return to normal anytime soon, each event owner started assessing the cancellation, postponement or replacement of classes. Northeast Basket Association and The SeatWeavers’ Guild opted to keep their events intact and postpone until next year.


Hartford Stitch cancelled classes and they are working on their own online classes to start with. CT Valley Woodworking is postponed until October. They have a very large studio so social distancing can be accomplished.


New York Sheep and Wool will be doing Zoom classes.


To see a schedule of revised classes go HERE


North Bennet Street School was very proactive and reached out about recorded or Zoom classes for their Continuing Education program. We had a few Zoom meetings with past and present instructors to discuss the possibilities.


I decided to jump into the deep end of the pool and go for the Zoom classes, and I also made a six-minute informative video, suggested to be done in the style of a “This Old House” clip. I’m no Tom Silva or Norm Abrams, but hey…I had time and all the professional photo equipment to give it a whirl.

“Lights, Camera, Action!”…yes? Well…it was more like birds, geese and turkeys. Seriously.

The space I designated to do my filming was my 12 x 24 screened-in porch off my garage that had originally been used as an outside family space. As the family left the nest, it became less used and things started piling up because it was you know…space! As I started weaving again a few years back it became a harbor for lost chairs. At its max there were over 70 out there (I can hear you all groan from here).


Last fall I decided to reclaim it and some were discarded, left on the curb as bonfire tinder or potential planters or any other reuse for neighbors. I gleaned my pile down to viable projects for students or possible reselling. They all now live in a temporary garage in a corner of the yard.


That left me with a space to quickly turn into a filming backdrop. I staged it with that in mind. I was giddy, and took out all the equipment to film. One video camera with a wireless mic, one stationary Canon DSLR camera that doubled as a second angle, both on tripods and a gorilla tripod hanging from the ceiling beam with a phone for overhead shooting. Two umbrella lights and a light on the floor between me and the backdrop. All needed to be started individually and I wasn’t ready for an assistant.


I think I had some creative blinders on as I started filming, trying to put on my best chatty, calm voice.


That’s where the birds, geese and turkeys came in…and the lawnmowers, chainsaws, kids playing, motorcycles, cats, dogs and 18-wheelers that all live on my quiet lake street.

Not realizing how much ambient noise would be picked up. I tried filming at 6 am (winged audience appeared) or 10 pm (18-wheeler came home for the night) to try to avoid noise in the busy part of the day. To no avail.

Unsettling to say, but it took about 16 hours to produce two two-minute “introduction to class” videos and one six-minute video. Multiple cuts, saving, editing, compiling in Adobe Premiere Pro (another learning curve). Transitions, fades, cuts, soundtracks, marrying up overhead and front-facing scenes, adding titles and text. Timing and layers of work. EH! It’s a learning curve. The good news is I've started making more promotional videos for other businesses.


Tutorials became my best friend. While showing one final video to someone they said “look, your cat just walked into the garage”. Yup. A video “Easter egg”. It was Take-6 of that cut…the cats stays. I hope everyone notices. Bonus points if you spot the cat.


I created a small outtake of my “oops” moments. A few close friends got to see a clip where I may or may not have used a couple words that slipped in frustration, ala George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can't Use on Television"



Long story short…I am in the process of closing in the porch, Zoom classes currently take place in my converted living room with a green screen, wallpaper table and extra monitors. I have learned to make sure the cat is out so she misses her Cecile B. DeMille opportunity. I feel like the weather lady pointing to something that isn’t there as I show samples of different weaves that are/aren’t behind my head.


So far, I have one class *in the can* (porch weave) and except for a couple small glitches, think it went swimmingly. A PowerPoint presentation sent to students ahead of time and used during the class does double duty of giving students something to follow and bullet points to keep me on track while presenting. The class was recorded and sent back to attendees as a reference. Which, by the way…is a pretty cool list from around the country. The school is located in Boston but via online classes there were participants from KY, OR, TX, and more. I miss personal interaction, looking over people’s shoulders but make do with “can you bring that closer to your phone so we can see it?”


There are 3 more classes coming up in August. North Bennet Street School has been incredibly supportive, assisting the instructors with set-up and technical help . Kolin is a NBSS student who has been working with all the CE instructors. He co-anchors the class and helps with transitions in camera views, reminds everyone of breaks, and helps with the live chat questions. We did a test-run on all the ins-and-outs a few days before the class. He is my Zoom-rock right now.


Porch Weave August 22 and Rush Stool August 29 still have a few spots left. Kits get mailed out with materials and instructions printed on card stock with some information on H.H Perkins (where I buy my supplies) and The SeatWeavers' Guild, Inc ® . The Guild has been kind enough to open membership to everyone this year (a savings of $30) if you would like to try it out. If you like it, you can sign up again for next year.


While the overall situation with Covid seems to be improving and folks are adapting to change, I don’t see the large classes, markets and shows making a comeback anytime soon. So, we learn to adapt. Learn new ways, think from a different direction.


When the porch is completed I will consider teaching small classes in the home studio. Four for seatweaving, maybe six for basketry. Maybe a drop-in work night once a month. We’ll see what happens with it.


I remember a friend asking me years ago if the glass was half-empty or half-full. Depends on if you’re drinking…or pouring.


Navigating change right now isn’t unlike riding a carousel…going around in circles over and over. But if you look at the changes while spinning around you’ll catch the smiling faces as you whiz by. They shine out. Look for the brass ring.

I can even see smiles behind the masks of my chair customers as they drop off projects in the middle of the yard and pay electronically or leave a payment on a table in the front yard. Work was a bit slow in March and April but the grand fear is abating. Logic and the need to do things safely are edging out the unknowns. Chair repairs are on a steady incline. If you need repairs done, give me a call and I can add you to the queue.


Times are tough but we strive to be tougher.


Keep on weaving! Oh…and take a class…please.


I’ll keep #suegyver-ing my studio and online classes.


You stay safe and take care of you and yours.


Sue






Sue Muldoon divides her time between 3-dimensional and 2-dimensional work. She bounces back and forth between photography, web design and graphic design to seatweaving (chair caning, wicker repair, rush, splint, etc.) and basket weaving.

Basketry started as an add-on to seat weaving because there was material begging to be used in more than one format.


Sue’s career has always been creative, from wallpaper hanging and interior painting to a lengthy career in the floral industry as designer and merchandiser. Wood carving, furniture refinishing and upcycling furniture in novel ways using unique materials like leather belts, ties and alpaca wool set her apart from traditional seatweaving methods.


Color is rampant and unapologetic.


Where some might see a chair, Sue sees a statement. She spends the majority of her time now repairing seats (an unabashed “chairnerd” and webmaster of The SeatWeavers Guild, Inc) but enjoys branching out into basketry.


She considers her seatweaving work to be part functional and part emotional. Along with repairing chairs, she repairs the memories that are attached to seats that are in demise and disrepair. The joy on a client’s face when they see family history brought back to functionality is inspiring.


Her photography and design work enable her to get the word out about what she does, and her skills in social media are in demand from farmers markets, growers, artists and authors.

Creating special baskets for her most rapt audience, her 5 and 9-year-old grandsons, keeps Sue busy and inspires her to teach them to appreciate nature, natural materials and art.


A frequent instructor at various sheep, wool and fiber festivals and art retreats and farmers markets, she enjoys sharing seatweaving and basketmaking to new crafters and artisans.

You can see Sue’s work at www.reduxforyou.com and www.suemuldoonimages.com

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