Zen art of basket weaving on shores of Green Lake 

Massey among artists at monthly Art of the Lake

WHAT: Art on the Lake

WHERE: Edgewater Outdoor Centre, Green Lake

WHEN: June 10 th , 1-5pm

Many will tell you there has been an artistic community flourishing in Whistler for years, but this summer it seems there is finally a movement afoot to uncover these talents. Art on the Lake is one such effort, a monthly showcase of artists on the shores of Green Lake.

"The artistic community is still in its infancy. It needs to be nurtured and it needs the support of the rest of Whistler if we’re going to exist here as artistic people," says Cheryl Massey, who will be among those showcasing work at Edgewater. She would know. Massey has lived in Whistler for over 16 years and during that time developed her own passion for basket weaving.

"I used to sit on the beach, fiddling with the grass, thinking, ‘I really want to make a basket’. I came up with something really funny looking. I’d go into stores and look at baskets and try to figure out how they were made. About 12 years ago, I decided to take a workshop from a gal that used only natural materials that she gathered. That was something that I became really interested in."

That sent Massey on her own exploration of what the area had to offer. Kelp, bark and tuley rush have become her favourite materials of choice. Massey ventures out in her kayak or canoe early summer mornings to collect the tuley rush from Alta Lake. She feels the actual process is just as important as the finished product.

"It’s the whole ritual of going out into nature and gathering your materials. It’s all out there. All you have to do is look around. There’s so much stuff here that the natives have been using for thousands of years. It’s fascinating. You’re opening yourself up to the old native ways of how people have worked with what nature provided. That’s a cool thing that I get off on. I’m out in the forest sometimes peeling bark and I think ‘wow, this is what people were doing hundreds of years ago, that’s so cool’."

Massey’s entire house becomes part of that process too, as she collects in the spring and summer and dries the materials in every available nook: corners, rafters, her studio.

"The whole place is sort of a menagerie of nature," she laughs.

She prefers to do the bulk of her weaving in the autumn, when the materials are thoroughly dried and the traditionally wet Whistler weather encourages her to stay indoors immersed in her work.

Massey has studied under such masters as Delores Churchill and Alistair Heslteene and these days she passes on her craft to others by leading her own workshops and lectures. She finds great satisfaction in the pleasure and pride in her students’ eyes when they carry away their own finished product.

"When you’re so into something it’s very Zen. Almost therapeutic. I guess that’s why people joke about basket weavers. You do get so wrapped up and you’re so focused and you remove yourself from everything else."

Aside from shows like Art on the Lake, Massey’s weaving can be seen in the Vincent Massey Pottery Gallery in Alpine Meadows, owned by her artist husband. Although it’s tucked away from the beaten path of Whistler Village, visitors still find their way to the enchanting setting and are always anxious to take a piece away with them.

"To think that there’s some woman in Italy right now who’s wearing my bag or there’s one of my big kelp baskets in Texas, it’s neat that there’s a small piece of me in different parts of the world. Energy has flowed through my fingers and created this item. To me, it’s about sending out good energy, because in a creative process, the energy you put into it meets the outcome."

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