Personal Info and Artist Statement
Sandra Atkinson has been weaving since 1983. In 1985 Sandy and her husband Steve opened Atkinson's Country House where Sandy could teach weaving and sell basket supplies. The success of the business grew into a nationwide mail ordering company. When Steve retired in 2000 he joined the business full time. Steve has also taken up woodcutting and chair caning and does some of the bases for the shop. He also does a little of everything else that needs doing around the shop. Steve especially likes doing the conventions and getting to know the other vendors and students who attend. Sandy says he is her greatest "PR" man.
In 1986 Sandy approached the U of M - PBS-TV about doing a series on basket weaving. The concept was enthusiastically received and the University of Michigan produced the first two series of "Country Basket Weaving with Sandy Atkinson", both of which went nationwide. Series three, four and five were produced by Steve and Sandy Atkinson and also went nationwide. Sandy is currently working on series 600 and 700. All five series have been picked up by Sterling digital out of New York State and will begin airing in 2002.
Sandy's most satisfying work is teaching others to weave and watching that person grow and become creative. She may start out with a basic basket weaving pattern, but always encourages the student to use their own ideas and creative ways with a pattern. "It is so much fun to watch that student be surprised at his/her own creativeness. To help him/her use ideas in a basket that I help to pull out of them, then watch the students satisfaction, is a wonderful feeling.", she says.
"My artistic goal is to keep bringing nature into my work and expanding my ideas of what a basket is verses what a weaving is. Most times it is a woven container of some shape. Some times it is a wall hanging not able to contain anything. There are times it may be a 3 dimensional work that's purpose is simply to behold. I have started working on more artistic pieces, we will have to see where that goes."
"My lifetime goal is to never stop learning and creating. There are times I do feel like I have hit a stone wall and cannot find my way. Those are the times I turn back to nature and her ways, her colors and her beauty. I then spend some time just contemplating and perhaps studying past works of art, either baskets or other art forms. Last fall my daughter Nicole asked me to go with her to the Cranbrook Art Institute on a field trip for her collage art class. We had a excellent tour guide in her instructor and what a wonderful time I had. It was just the therapy for the - hitting the wall syndrome! I have learned through the years that we all need inspiration at times and the place to get that inspiration can be from books, art museums, walks in nature, or whatever you enjoy and can make available to yourself."
"There are times I will take a walk and look for things to add to my baskets. Sometimes those things may be a pine cone, a stone, a vine, perhaps a dried flower or foliage. Nature has an endless supply of ideas, you just have to look for them. I enjoy the challenge of most all kinds of woven baskets, especially the useful and traditional baskets. I have a tendency to make large creations. I have to keep that under control as my students want mostly medium size baskets and "cute creations", so I do those for the students. I do the others for me."
One of Sandy's life ambitions is to help people understand that basket weaving is not just a "craft" but an art form. The word "craft" has lost it's valued meaning in today's American culture. Where years ago one's craft was the work a person did for his/her livelihood. Today, unfortunately the word "craft" is used loosely to mean the pig made out of a bleach bottle. Therefore, Sandy's goal has always been to inform the public that basketry is an art form, with the creator most often wearing the title of Fiber Artist.
Sandy has taught basket weaving lessons at Michigan, North Carolina, and Indiana State Conventions, as well as Missouri, Kentucky, John C. Campbell School, Michigan Basket Bash, Silver Dollar City, Michigan Spring Event, Crossroad Weavers, and at many other state and local workshops. Steve and Sandy have four daughters, and six grandchildren. They reside in Lennon, Michigan on a small farm.