When I needed a unique basket to hold yarn for my wall loom, I knew exactly where to go. Sharon Fernimen watched my hands as I described what I needed.  "It has to be rectangular, with a handle on the back,” I said, “and about this big.”

Sharon measured my hand spread and jotted a few notes. Two weeks later, I had the perfect basket for my weaving studio.

That ability to work out ideas, patterns and designs serves her well at the basket maker at the Ozark Folk Center. Sharon has been interested in crafts most of her life. She taught herself crochet and cross stitch early on. She worked for eight years at the Flat Creek Dulcimer and Craft Shop, in Hardy, Arkansas.

When her husband, Bruce, retired, his goal was to live somewhere he could ride out into the forest from his back door. Sharon’s goal was to work at the Ozark Folk Center. So, they moved from Hardy to Big Flat. Now Bruce can ride his mule Tulip right down to the river and continue on for days and Sharon spends her days visiting with folks and weaving baskets.

“Some of the baskets I’ve made so many of,” she said, “I don’t have to think.” Her hands are constantly working but her mind is free to think about new designs and projects. When the cook at the Country Kitchen complained about the flies getting on the biscuits, Sharon designed a plate cover that has become a best seller. It also keeps the biscuits safe in the Kitchen.

Sharon’s basket weaving is based on tradition. She originally learned the craft as a Committee of 100 apprentice at the Folk Center and studied with Julie Stow for 6 weeks.

“Some of the patterns I use are old traditional ones,” she said. “And some are my own.”

Sharon likes to develop a new style or two of basket each winter during the off season. She watches trends in kitchen and house wares and keeps an eye on popular colors.

“I get my color combinations from quilts,” Sharon explains. “I go to the Quilt Show each year and always come up with new ideas.”

Sharon dyes all her own basket reed, because you can’t buy the colors she uses. Each batch comes out different, so many of her baskets are one-of-a-kind.

Lately, in addition to plate covers and market baskets, Sharon has been weaving a lot of egg baskets. These big kidney shaped baskets are great for a wide variety of uses and they make eye-catching displays. When her granddaughters Shelby and Charlotte came to visit this summer they both decided they needed to learn how to make egg baskets. They both finished the week with beautiful baskets.

 

Sharon’s way of understanding and breaking a process into its parts also makes her an excellent teacher. Her Pine Needle Basket class fills up quickly each year and many of her students return to make more elaborate and advanced creations. She also teaches several reed basket weaving classes during the year and is always happy to teach students One-on-One classes at a time that works for them. Like any true teacher, Sharon enjoys watching her students learn.

“I love to see that look on their faces,” Sharon said, smiling. “When they realize that they made something beautiful, and they made it themselves. That makes it all worthwhile.”