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Meet Hello Galena Artist: Toni Klingler

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Toni Klingler gourd artBasket and gourd artist Toni Klingler discusses her work.

How did you get started as a basket and gourd artist?
A computer error sent my life in a different direction. When a computer scheduled both of my French classes for the same time at the UD for Kids in Dubuque, Iowa, (a summer camp for Talent and Gifted children), I was asked if I would be interested in assisting in another class. I chose to help in the basket weaving class. I watched 3rd and 4th grade girls make a basket and decided, "I would like to try that!"

Once you started, what kept your interest?Toni Klingler gourd art
My continued interest in weaving is motivated by the individuality of each basket. Twenty people can take the same pattern and add their own touches to create their own special pieces. I taught my first basket class as a bible study. Each week the students started by studying a different Bible verse that referenced baskets, then they worked on their Easter baskets. Embellishing gourds seemed like a natural extension of basketry. Now I teach and create in my own home studio. Also, I can be found sitting on a tree stump in the woods next to my house weaving or cleaning gourds.

Where do you get inspiration for the baskets and gourds?Toni Klingler baskets
In a way, the gourds tell me what to do with them. After I clean them, I sit them on the table, turn them,then draw where I am going to cut them open. Sometimes the ideas come quickly and sometimes they sit for several months. Sometimes I start with the base color, sometimes with the embellishment, and sometimes with the rim materials. Each gourd is unique.

The baskets usually start from patterns I have bought or created myself. Then, after following the pattern to make a couple of baskets I get an idea to change it. I guess I get bored easily. A friend once asked if I EVER follow a pattern that's provided. I usually add my own twist, tie-on or embellishment.

Toni Klingler art masksWhat have you created out of gourds?
I take dried gourds, clean them, then cut them to create vases, bowls or masks. Gourd masks are my latest interest and biggest challenge.

What makes them artistic?
I use several dyeing techniques add a woven rim then "embellish" the piece. The embellishments are sometimes created from naturals found on walks in the woods or beads, yarn or feathers from the craft store.

How has your art changed over the years?
I used to make only utilitarian baskets. Everything I made could be used to hold bread, remote controls or knitting. Now my pieces have more style and individuality.

What is your “signature” piece or style?
I do not have a weaving style but my 'signature' is the use of naturals like driftwood handles or an embellishment with dried mushrooms or seed pods.

What colors do you typically use?
I try not to use colors that I like, instead I use colors I see most frequently in others' homes.

Who are your mentors?Toni Klingler baskets
Though as a gourd artist I am self-taught, I have had many nationally renown basket teachers. Venie Hinson from Ohio and Flo Hoppe from New York are two of my favorites because of the gentle way they guide their students to success.

Now I like to go to regional conventions a couple times a year to take classes from nationally known teachers. This keeps my work from becoming stagnant.

Do you weave with other basket-weavers?
The basket group in Dubuque gets together once a month in members homes. I occasionally join the Wisconsin Gourd Society's and the Quad Cities Basket Guild's monthly gatherings.

What's your next major project?
It's not a major project, but extremely special. I will be working with my mother. She will be painting florals on lids for a series of baskets I am making for a customer.

Toni Klingler basketsTell us a bit about your background.
I'm originally from southeast Iowa, lived in Dubuque 30 years, and have enjoyed living in Galena since 2001. I'm a retired teacher, having taught primarily kindergarten and pre-school, both in private and public schools in Dubuque, finishing with six years at Grand View Child Development Center. I loved the excitement for learning that the little ones bring with them every day.

Did your students see your baskets?
In the Fall, I always showed my students how to make a Harvest basket. I worked about 5-10 minutes everyday for a couple of weeks. They saw every step in the basketweaving process and helped me choose colors. When the basket was finished we used it to hold the fruits and vegetables they brought for our Harvest party.

Where can people find your baskets and gourds?
Right now my work is at the Galena Artist Guild Gallery as well as in the Hello Galena shop. I have exhibited in galleries in Platteville and Mineral Point, WI. I enjoy doing arts and craft fairs because I can demonstrate and visit with customers while sharing my craft with them.

To contact artist Toni Klingler about her work, you may reach her via e-mail.

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