JeanTell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What got you interested in weaving?

I grew up in New York, but moved to Massachusetts in 1968, where I raised my family. In 2006 I relocated to New Hampshire where my husband and I built our home and the shop.

I’ve always felt a pull toward baskets, whether it was in a retail store or antique shop. I was intrigued by how they were made and I wanted to know more. I saw that a local high school was offering a basket weaving course through its community education program, and I was hooked. After that class, I was inspired to continue exploring weaving, seeking books on the subject, and finding instructors from whom I could learn. Later, I was invited to teach at a community college and my desire to have my own business really took off from there.

How did Murray Hill Weaving (MHW) come to be?

Robert_JeanMHW was in my husband Robert’s thoughts, even before our house was built. When he’d talk about building our home—a log cabin—he always said there’d be a shop on the property for me to have my own business.

I never imagined my shop would be built before we even started construction on our house! The day the excavator showed up to start digging holes for the supports, it seemed a little more real. That was in the fall of 2006. Winter came and construction was put on hold, but by the time spring came around, family and friends were coming over to help clear the lot, burn brush, put up walls, cook hotdogs over the fire, and share a bottle of wine.

The shop doors officially opened in March 2008 when a basketmaker and friend of mine from Indiana agreed to be the featured artist at my grand opening event. The shop was still rough, but we had insulation, a generator for lighting, and a generous neighbor who graciously offered the use of her bathroom. We filled the shop with 13 students the first day and 14 the next. It was amazing!

Do you have a favorite weaver? If yes, what draws you to that person’s work?

I’m drawn to several basketmakers and all for different styles.

Martha Wetherbee taught me the joy of working with ash and the process of producing the fine, ribbon-like weavers that are such an important part of Shaker baskets. Having a tremendous interest in Shaker history, this seemed a natural fit.

Vladimir Yarish gave me my first opportunity to weave with birch bark that he harvests in Russia and brings to the United States with him. There’s a great need to understand the process of harvesting birch. Vladimir also gives a great history on birch baskets, their uses to the Russian people, and the importance to everyday living.

Matt Tommey uses southern invasive plant species in his basketry, such as kudzu, tulip bark, and wisteria vine. Class time is always a great experience with Matt because of his great sense of humor and the abundance of materials available to his students.

Can you tell us about one of your favorite projects? What makes it memorable?

My favorite project was the Molly’s Nesting Basket. I’d made a couple of these baskets before but this one had extra special energy put into it because it was for my granddaughter!

This particular basket was made on some of those cold evenings in the shop with my dog, Scrappy, to keep me company as the generator purred away. The other memorable thing about the project was my daughter’s wonderful reaction when I gave it to her.

What can someone expect to experience during one of your classes?

Inspiration from their instructor, a lot of laughs, some good jokes, going home with a great product, and wanting to come back.

What organizations are you active with or a member of?  

I am a member of Northeast Basketmakers Guild and Member at Large and am active with several other organizations.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in exploring weaving?

Contact me or stop by the shop. I’ll introduce you to everything in the basketry or bottoming world of weaving. Never feel overwhelmed or discouraged because no matter how complicated it seems, you can do it!