Teresa Chuber started hand making baskets in the mid 80’s, as a young mom looking for some creative direction. Chuber, a native of Kirksville, Mo., now lives on her eastern Laclede County farm with her husband David. David taught military history at both Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri while still on active duty in the Army. Teresa retired after 11 years from the Plato School district.
Chuber admitted to having many interests but her love of crafting baskets has been with her since she was a young mother.
“I needed an outlet with adults. There was a basket class located at the local vocational technical school in Kirksville. That’s where it all started,” Chuber stated. Her first instructor had learned the craft from an Appalachian art college, following a centuries old skill that originated out of necessity. Chuber calls them Appalachian egg baskets but their tradition goes back further than that.
“Our ancestors brought them over from Scotland and Ireland. They were known as Gypsy gathering baskets because they would travel from orchard to orchard to pick,” she said. Baskets at the time were made from whatever native material was available. The style and look of baskets varied from region to region, influence not only by European settlers but by native Americans and Africans. According to Chuber, the original antique hand-crafted baskets from the 19th century can fetch several hundred dollars apiece. Like most hand made items, many hours can go into making them.
When Chuber lived in northern Missouri she used Willow for her baskets. Willow not being common in this area, she uses whatever woody material is available. The basket handles are made from grapevine and the reed is dyed in a walnut hull juice. This natural dye had many uses in the 19th century as a fabric and clothing dye.
For more on this story see Saturday's LCR.