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Location:
Lafayette
Medium:
Basketmaker and Broommaker
FEATURED WORK
Bev Larson

“As I look at all my supplies and baskets, I roll my eyes upward and say ‘look what you started!’ I know every basket has a little ‘Tina’ blessing.”

There are so many great schools of American craft in the U.S. that you would expect an Indiana Artisan, someone recognized by the state as being at the top of their craft, to have gotten their start at one. But not Bev Larson.

“Life can throw you lemons, and you need to make lemonade,” Bev said with the voice of experience. “My daughter passed away from cancer in 1988. I needed something to fill my time, and the YWCA in Lafayette was offering basket classes. I took three classes, and the rest is history,” she said. “Fell in love with it.”

That was nearly 30 years ago, and Bev has been honing her craft ever since. Make that “crafts,” plural. “Brooms came along a little later,” said the rare Indiana Artisan who has had two very different art forms ‘juried in.’ “While I had been collecting brooms for years, it was much later that I had an opportunity to take a class on broom making from a fellow basket weaver at a conference. I jumped at it and was hooked immediately.”

A friend of Bev’s has a favorite saying posted on his studio wall, and it speaks to her. “Inspiration is allowing yourself to make mistakes; art is knowing which ones to leave in,” she says as if repeating a mantra. “Both broom making and basket weaving allow me to think outside the box and create a piece of art,” she explained. “Inspiration can come from within or from the material I am working with, or from someone or something around me. The excitement I feel as a basket is evolving is invigorating.”

She also credits her daughter for inspiration. “As I look at all my supplies and baskets, I roll my eyes upward and say ‘look what you started!’ I know every basket has a little ‘Tina’ blessing.”

Bev believes everyone should have a passion, and weaving and broom making certainly are hers. “When you love what you do, it comes out in your work,” she said. “Basket making and broom making are old, traditional art forms and were mostly functional. Today I can recreate traditional designs that have been around for centuries or create a nonfunctional or nontraditional design.”

She credits her environment for a lot of her creativity. “I was born in Terre Haute and moved to Lafayette to go to Purdue and forgot to leave,” she says with a smile. One quarter of Indiana Artisan’s review criteria is the work’s link with the Hoosier State, and Bev said, “Indiana is just plain and simply home. I love the down-to-earth values and the farm-fresh air. I use sticks from Indiana farmers’ fence rows and wool from the sheep of some of those same farmers. Indiana woodworkers make the wood bases for my baskets, and Indiana blacksmiths make the handles for my brooms.” Without question, her work is solidly linked to Indiana.

Bev said she applied to Indiana Artisan at the suggestion and encouragement of what are now fellow artisans. “To grow in your craft and in life, you need to surround yourself with positive talented people,” she said. “What better way to be associated with great people than to be an Indiana Artisan? And it’s a great way to promote the talent the state of Indiana has to Hoosiers, Americans and visitors to this great State!”

Asked how she reacted to the news that she had been recognized by the state and was named an Indiana Artisan, she said, “Honored. One simple word describes it all. I love what I do and love doing it.”

And from this woman whose life seems to focus on broom-making, basket weaving and the ongoing conversion of lemons to lemonade, she added, “I am a grandma to the two best grandkids in the world. That’s not really part of my biography, but I had to do the grandma thing.” This one’s for you, Addy and Calvin.