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An "honest" business and a labor of love

MINERVA It is, no question, a labor of love. It requires sawing, soaking, pounding, chiseling, stripping, splitting, and weaving. It also involves patience, passion, and - (there is much of this) skill. Were talking about making amazing, beautiful baskets. Its not just a craft its a living. Yvonne Phillips, a 4th generation Native American Indian (Missisquoi Abenaki Tribe) basket weaver, now plies her trade in Minerva. With her partner George Gramlich, Phillips opened her shop, Honest Injun Baskets, on August 16 at 291 Longs Hill Road in Minerva. This past March the two sold their 500-acre Beefalo farm near Fort Ann and moved lock, stock, & barrel to Minerva. Gramlich has had a camp on Minerva Lake for many years, and they knew that this was where they wanted to set up shop. Gramlich cuts the needed white ash logs in the spring, and helps Phillips get ready for a long, careful, and intensive process that ends with spectacularly beautiful baskets. At Phillips shop youll find Adirondack pack baskets, egg baskets, Easter baskets, flower baskets, wine baskets, and many other hand-made creations. This is not Baskets-R-Us. Phillips constructs her baskets with the care , love, and weaving tradition that results in a unique product each time. Indeed, as Phillips states, Making the baskets is really for love, not money. Phillips is one of a small number of Indians in the northeastern states sill making ash baskets the traditional way. She takes Adirondack white ash logs and strips the bark from them with a two-handed draw knife. The stripped logs are then soaked in an eight foot-long tub for months. When ready, she places them on a platform and pounds the logs with a sledgehammer. Then, with a hammer and chisel, she pulls strips (year-rings) from the softened layer. The exposed layer below is then pounded and more strip pulled. Next the strips are split again, cleaned, and soaked. Its an energy intensive process, but it results in ash strips that are ready for weaving. It was her grandparents, Ernest and Peggy Phillips, who inspired Yvonne Phillips to continue a long basket-weaving tradition in her family, and it was George Gramlich who encouraged her to open up her shop in Minerva. Phillips plan is to be open throughout the year. At this point, the shop hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, but she will open up the shop on a weekday following a call for an appointment. Visiting the shop will help folks get a feel for the intensity of the craft. I want people to come to look at our baskets, to see whats involved. By word of mouth, we want people to find where we are and become customers, then repeat customers, she says. Phillips and Gramlich are planning on staying; they are settling into the community, and are ready for the snow. Everybody up here is great everyone is community-oriented, Phillips says. All are welcome to check out Honest Injun Baskets it is a terrific new business in town. The shops phone number is (518) 251-2501.

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