RACC hosts ‘Japanese Inspired Baskets’ by Flo Hoppe Aug. 2

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The Rome Art and Community Center will present “Japanese Inspired Baskets” starting Thursday, Aug. 2, with an opening reception at 6 p.m.

The show featuring the work of Flo Hoppe will be on display through Sept. 5.

“It shows the variety of Japanese baskets that I’ve learned to make,” Hoppe said. “I was able to study with two master basket makers in Japan in the ‘90’s.  After studying the techniques from Japanese basketry books for seven years, I was able to finally understand what all the techniques were about.”

Hoppe, of Rome, started weaving in 1971.

“My husband and I had spent three years in Japan with the Air Force and as we were traveling across country to our new station in Rome we stopped in my parents’ home in Chicago. I found some basket reed and a small booklet in their basement and thought I’d like to give it a try,” she said.

“It was the start of a whole new world! After making the five baskets in the booklet I started to haunt the library. There were only a few books on the subject and they were very old. I began teaching at the Art Center a year after learning the basics and when you teach you find out just how much you don’t know.  I was keeping one step ahead of my students.”

Hoppe has traveled the world teaching basket weaving, including England, Japan, Russia, and Australia.  

“I’m best known for wicker baskets which use round materials like round reed and willow.  I’ve written two books on the subject, ‘Wicker Basketry’ and ‘Contemporary Wicker Basketry.’ They are the books that I wished I’d had when I started weaving,” she said.

“The first booklet, called the ‘Priscilla Book of Basketry’ was very elementary but it sure was enough to get me intrigued enough to continue making baskets and teaching.  I’ve also co-authored a book on birch bark basketry titled ‘Plaited Basketry with Birch Bark.’ I spent my 57th birthday in the ‘dangerous Russian forest’ as Vladimir called it (loads of heat and bugs).  It was memorable to be sure, but it was definitely an experience not to be repeated. I have to say I appreciate all the effort that goes in to harvesting, though.”

Hoppe noted she’s always been fond of Japanese aesthetic.

“We lived in a Japanese house off base in Misawa — on the floor on tatami mats and sleeping on futons.  We also traveled a bit and I just loved the Japanese aesthetic.  I wasn’t making baskets at the time  because I was taking care of three children under the age of 2 1/2 (twins and a single), but I did come home with a few very practical baskets.  Guess I just have a penchant for everything Japanese.”

Her passion for basketry has rubbed off on her four children, somewhat. “When the kids were younger they made a few baskets.  We had a community pool in our neighborhood years ago when the kids were home and they enjoyed teaching the youngsters there.  Actually I would weave there myself in the kiddie pool putting my reed in the pool to soak.”

At 76, she noted she has no thought of ever retiring. “I love to teach and I love the people I meet. They’re the best.”

On the net: romeart.org

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