2014, article, barrel, baskets, magazine, signatures

Baskets, Barrels & Longaberger

(I wrote this article for the Fall/ Winter Signatures magazine for Longaberger. I went out to The Homestead and interviewed both Ahmad and Christy about the barrel basket. I enjoyed researching the history of barrels and learning how a basket evolves from being just an idea to a real basket. I’m proud of how factual this article is and the playful tone it has when referring to how much wine barrels can hold. I have included scanned images of the article from Signatures.)

Barreling Traditions

Barrel making is a centuries-old craft rooted in tradition, just like basket making. We’re proud to honor the tradition of barrel making with our new Barrel Basket.

For nearly 2,000 years, barrels were the most convenient method of shipping because of their round shape. They held a wide variety of items, just like baskets carry diverse things.

Techincally, a barrel is a hollow cylindrical container, traditionally made of wooden staves bound by wooden or metal hoops.

Archaeological research has found barrel making tools dating from as early as 100 BC. Even the Roman empire used barrels in the 3rd century AD. When the Romans began to spread their empire across the globe, they wanted to take their wine with them so they used wooden barrels.

After transporting their wines in barrels, for some time, the Romans and other societies after them, started to realize that the oak barrels imparted new, pleasant qualities to the wine. The contact with the wood made the wine smoother and sometimes it also made it better tasting.

Traditionally, the barrel was a standard size of measure referring to a set capacity or weight of a given commodity. For example, in the United Kingdom, a barrel of beer referred to a quantity of 36 gallons. That’s over 300 pounds!

The talented designers at Longaberger have perfected the art of creating timeless beautiful baskets exclusively for Collectors Club members.

Ahmad Takouri  was excited about the Barrel Basket for Collectors Club members.  He has been a Basket Designer for 16 years with Longaberger. Ahmad works on the Collectors Club baskets and the Master Studio baskets.

“I like trying to make something that looks like a barrel and putting the Longaberger signatures weave into it. We’ve done that a lot with previous shapes and it’s always neat to take a shape your used to seeing and making it into a Longaberger basket. That’s my favorite part,” Ahmad said.

“It makes sense to produce a Barrel Basket because barrels have a similar construction to baskets because of their bands, up splints and construction,” said Ahmad.

Barrels also relate to baskets because they require skilled artisans called “coopers” would manufacture them.

Coopers were once independent craftsmen, whose craft was economically vital and physically demanding. Until a century ago, many villages had at least one skilled cooper, plus younger recruits serving a seven-year apprenticeship.

“I think Collectors Club members will appreciate that we’re honoring an age-old craft, especially an older hand-made craft and such a historical shape. It’s who we are,” Ahmad said.

The purpose of the barrel and basket are very similar, but barrels carried larger quantities of goods and were used in shipping.

 “Sauerkraut used to be fermented in the barrels. They also stored dried meats, fruits, and of course, whiskey,” said Ahmad. “It also carried a lot of fragile things like eggs and pottery which would be packed among layers of straw.”

Barrels were additionally used to transport wine and most barrels could hold 55 gallons of wine. Now we’re talking.

Christy Flood is a weaver of the Barrel Basket and loves “making something that people can pass onto generations.”

The Barrel Basket is unique to weave because it uses a breakaway form where small pieces can be taken out as the basket is woven from the bottom to the top.

Flood said that she has several Longaberger baskets and she “will pass them onto her boys when they grow older.”

She joked that when she goes to garage sales and sees Longaberger baskets, she checks the bottoms to see if any of them have her initials.

It was only fitting that Longberger honored the rich heritage of barrels with a Collectors Club Barrel Basket.  The Barrel Basket is available through the Fall/ Winter WishList.

The Barrel Basket is made of Soft Gray maple weaving and Rich Brown accent chain. It has a small black band on the top and bottom with a Pewter trim.

The Barrel Basket has a soft gray board bottom. Unlike other baskets, it is not signed and dated on the bottom because it has a WoodCrafts board bottom. It is signed on the inside once it is completed.

It is marked with the Longaberger logo that authenticates our proud tradition of quality and craftsmanship.

2014, article, baskets, magazine, porch, signatures, writing

Front Porch Memories

(I wrote this article for Longaberger’s Fall/ Winter Signatures magazine. Lynn and Gary were nice enough to invite me to their home and I interviewed them on their front porch. I’m proud of the descriptive details I included in the opening and how I used quotes that make the voice of Lynn and Gary come alive.)

Front Porch Swinging with Gary and Lynn Longaberger
Things in the village of Dresden, Ohio move at a slower pace. The hustle and bustle of big city life is replaced by the casual swoosh of a comfy porch swing. Cars pass by slowly and the sounds of friends chatting fill the cozy porch.

Surrounded by brightly colored flowers potted in warm brown Longaberger baskets, Gary and Lynn Longaberger take time to enjoy each other’s company (and some wine, of course) after a busy day. They gather with friends, laugh together and wave to the people passing by. 

Taking in a breath of autumn air, Lynn turned to Gary and said, “Feels like you’re back home again, doesn’t it honey?” Gary nodded.
It’s a simple porch with a white and grey rug that fills almost the whole space, a sturdy gray swing, a few small tables and Grandma Bonnie’s dark green and white patio furniture that she passed down to her 10th child.

 “We eat dinner out here sometimes,” Gary said. “On the weekends, we drink coffee in the mornings and almost every evening we dink our wine out here.”  

Gary and Lynn chat about their grandkids and what’s going on that week.  Gary is more or less retired. He joked that he is “on-call for Longaberger events.” Lynn is Senior Project Coordinator at the Home Office and celebrated her 22nd year with the company in November. 

Lynn grew up just outside of Zanesville and Gary grew up, of course, in Dresden. Their two granddaughters currently go to Tri-Valley High School, while the other is in college. They also have a younger grandson and granddaughter in nearby Reynoldsburg.  

 “The grandkids can spend the night whenever and even a few members of the Sales Field have stayed over,” Lynn said.

About a year ago, Gary and Lynn had been looking for a new house in Dresden. A friend mentioned that a home on Main Street recently went up for sale.

“We called the owners that evening. Gary went through the house at noon. The next day, I went through it at four. We called them at six to say it was perfect. We will take it!” Lynn fondly remembered.    

The house has a separate garage that Gary has turned into a workshop or “mancave” as Lynn lovingly calls it.

Gary and Lynn agreed that it was fun sitting out on the front porch, especially during special events like Halloween.

“Remember, they told us we would have 500-600 kids come by? But, it was raining and cold that night. So Gary ended up eating half of the candy himself,” Lynn said. “One piece for the kids. Two for him.”

A favorite porch memory took place before the Bee, this year. A couple of Home Consultants from California came to Ohio a few days early and came to Gary and Lynn’s house. The Home Consultants took turns riding Grandma Bonnie’s bicycle through Dresden as Gary and Lynn showed them around. They rode down to Wendy Longaberger Little’s house and chatted on her front porch for a bit. Then, they went to Grandma Bonnie’s old house and took a few pictures there. 

“They were thrilled to death. One woman said that riding Grandma Bonnie’s bike was her favorite Bee experience,” Lynn said.

During the Bee, about 30-40 people stopped by Gary and Lynn’s house.

“We talked about how excited we were to have them and how they couldn’t wait to stop back by again,” Lynn said. “So many people were here, that we had to get extra chairs and we had people sitting in the front yard.”

Lynn gave tours around the house and showed them the baskets that J.W. and Larry had made for Gary. 
“Some people you only get to see once a year, but they feel like your best friend,” said Lynn. “Thank goodness for Facebook so you can keep up with people and see what’s going on in their family.” 
In Dresden, Main Street comes alive in the evenings. Best friends go on power walks together. 

Parents ride bicycles while their children ride tricycles a few feet ahead of them. Young couples walk their dogs. Trucks give friendly honks. Gary and Lynn wave to everyone who passes by.

“Even if we don’t know them, we’ll wave. But, usually we know them and say hi,” Lynn said.
So many different people stop by the porch and such wonderful memories are made that Lynn and a few friends joked that they were going to start a blog to chronicle their porch adventures.

Most nights, Lynn reads her Kindle outside and Gary solves Sudoku puzzles.

“I do one easy puzzle and then one hard one. Sometimes I’ll do a ‘very hard’ puzzle,” said Gary, “And, I always do the Sunday Sudoku in the paper.”

Gary and Lynn like being so close to local sports events. They attend nearly every Tri-Valley High School sporting event. Whether it’s supporting their daughter, who coaches the varsity volleyball team, or cheering on the Scotties at a Friday night football game, Gary and Lynn are there.

Best of all, their house is located very close to the high school. Lynn said, “It’s great being able to just walk to the football games and not worry about parking.”

The location of their home also comes in handy during parades. There is the Dresden Homecoming parade at the end of June, the Tri-Valley Homecoming parade in early October, and the Christmas parade on the first Saturday of December.

“Tina Smythe and her family, Anita Rector, and Gary’s sister, Wendy Little with her husband Bob will bring lawn chairs and sit in our front yard and all of us will watch the parade go by,” Lynn said. 
As the evening went on and the sun started to set, Lynn said “Only thing that could’ve topped this would be if Grandma Bonnie was still here to sit on the porch with us. She was a good mother-in-law”

Gary chimed in that Grandma Bonnie was a mother and grandmother “to a lot of people.”

They remembered her sense of humor and how much fun she was. Gary noted that his sister, Wendy, is a lot like his mom. Wendy and Bob are frequent visitors to the porch. 

 In the future, Gary and Lynn hope to add a ceiling fan and improve the back porch so it can be used “for times when the front porch overflows with people.” They are always looking up Main Street to see who will walk down the sidewalk and who they can invite on their porch. 

2014, baskets, layout, longaberger, magazine, pets, signatures, work

Furry Friends in Baskets

Longaberger has a magazine called Signatures, that is exclusively made for their Collectors Club members. In the fall of 2014, I organized this collection of Home Consultant’s pet pictures to be in the Fall Winter issue.
First, I asked Home Consultants on social media to send photographs of their pets in Longaberger baskets. I was overwhelmed by the response. Sometimes I had to ask them to send me higher quality photographs to ensure the pictures looked good printed. I wrote captions for the photos (using their name and pet’s name) and a paragraph explaining the pictures. Using old Signatures as inspiration, I suggested to the graphic designer that pet toys be incorporated into the layout. Together, we laid out the pages. I’m happy with how it turned out and it was such great experience learning how magazine information can be gathered and laid out.

Pages 22-23 from the Fall Winter Signatures

I asked Home Consultants to submit pictures of their pets in baskets, organized the responses, sent thank you e-mails, wrote captions and helped plan the page layout for this page. 

I wrote this short paragraph that accompanied the pet pictures.

From page 24 of Fall Winter Signatures.