NORTHWEST--Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown

IT'S LOVE, NOT MONEY, FOR BASKET MAKER

February 25, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

If the cliche is true, and the world is going to perdition, Joyce Schaum is ready to weave the hand basket.

"I absolutely adore making these things," said Mrs. Schaum, sitting among hand-dyed rattan reed strewn about the studio in the back of her Keymar home. "I like what I am creating and other people like what I do, too.

"It's a mutually fulfilling business."

Mrs. Schaum's skill and artistry landed her a spot in the country's largest craft fair, being held this weekend at the Baltimore Convention Center and Festival Hall.

About 600 of America's best artisans will display everything from home and office furnishings to jewelry and fashion items during the event, sponsored by the American Craft Council, the biggest such organization in the country.

"It's an important show," said Mrs. Schaum, 42, who has operated her home-based basket-making business since 1984. "I enjoy this stuff so much I get excited thinking about the shows."

The Taneytown native is so happy with her career you'd think she'd been born to it. But her craft career was at the end of a road that spiraled almost as much as the multiple designs in her baskets.

She received a bachelor's degree in music education from Columbia Union College in Takoma Park in 1972, but soon discovered she didn't want to teach music for the rest of her life.

Her job as a word-processing consultant in the Washington area gave her the extra time to do crafts for money.

"I got into stained glass first because I couldn't afford to buy the items I wanted," said Mrs. Schaum, who lives in the house she and her husband, Gary, built 13 years ago. "But I figured I could try to make them.

"Friends at work would see what I'd do and ask for me to make something for them."

When sons Jason, now 11, and Adam, 9, came along, Mrs. Schaum stopped working in glass.

She said the lead she was using in her stained-glass work could endanger the children and decided to take a class in basket-making.

She was hooked.

"When the children got older, I could go back to the glass work, but I was at a place in my basketry skills where I didn't want to quit," Mrs. Schaum said. "I did both the stained glass and the baskets for a while, but I eventually decided I would go into business with the baskets."

Her business earned her customers from all over, including a representative from NationsBank who wanted a basket for the home office in North Carolina.

Mrs. Schaum's skills also earned her a place on the "Directory of American Craftsmen" in the August issue of Early American Life magazine for the past two years. She is also included in the coming summer's list, she said.

"I try to be as creative as I can with my baskets," said Mrs. Schaum, whose products range from tiny baskets you can hold in your hand to large ones that resemble bassinets. "When I make my baskets, I use a lot of color.

"I am also influenced by the Shakers, like the cat's head basket that I frequently copy." Mrs. Schaum described the round basket with a square base whose corners come to a point. "When you turn it upside down, it's the shape of a cat's head."

The cat's head basket will be one of dozens of her works that the public will see tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday.

The exhibit was closed to the public yesterday and is today, so retailers from all over the nation can browse the booths -- spread out in spaces in the Convention Center, Festival Hall and in Oriole Park at Camden Yards -- for items they could sell in their stores.

"There are some craftspeople who only do this show each year because buyers want to sell their crafts in their stores," Mrs. Schaum said. "They come away with enough sales to support their businesses for the whole year."

But an equally important part of the fair will be the three days it will be open to the public.

Mrs. Schaum said she definitely appreciated being a Carroll County resident when she was selected to take part in this weekend's fair. Being just an hour away from the biggest craft event in the country cut her travel costs considerably.

"We in Maryland are really lucky to have this show in our back yard. There are people who have come from the West Coast just to participate," said Mrs. Schaum, who will tote about $15,000 worth of her baskets to the fair. "The woman who set up her booth next to mine drove down from Massachusetts."

While Mrs. Schaum said she hopes to sell at least half the items she takes, low sales won't stop her from continuing to fashion her colorful baskets.

"I make about $30,000 a year with teaching classes and selling the baskets, but half of that goes into supply," she said as her fingers worked strands of brown ash into a palm-sized multi-colored basket. "You can tell I'm in it for love, because it sure isn't for the money."

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