If you have gone to the Fort Atkinson Rendezvous anytime within the last twenty-two years, you may have stopped to watch Susan Massman weave magic to her award winning baskets. She also takes time to stop and explain and even let you try your hand at weaving baskets.
Busy Susan is the daughter of Luke and Elaine Kuennen, and grew up on a farm near Festina. Susan lives between West Union and Clermont and works at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Susan also teaches part time at NICC and recently obtained her Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in health care education, MSN/ED.
Susan enjoys weaving baskets that are historically significant and have a utilitarian purpose or function. Susan likes to go to the Pioneer/Living History Farm by Des Moines and Rendezvous events where she can share a wealth of basket weaving knowledge, demonstrate, and sell her baskets. Susan has also helped youth organizations learn to weave historic baskets.
Susan admires baskets made by Winnebago Native American, Emma Big Bear and the willow work of the German settlers of Northeast Iowa. Susan explains, “The skills of basket weaving were rarely passed on, making the art endangered.” Susan is attempting to preserve as much information on the basket weavers of Northeast Iowa as she can. If you have any knowledge that would be helpful, please contact her.
Having several beds of cultured willow at her home, allows her to enjoy and experiment weaving done by the pioneers and settlers of our country. Having used a vast array of materials, her favorite is willow. If ever given the opportunity Susan says, “Hold a basket in your hands, feel it, smell it.” Susan says nothing can compare to its natural beauty.
To ensure authenticity, all baskets Susan makes are numbered, dated and signed. Using her own signature, she also incorporates one that her Great-Great-Great Grandfather Gerhard Kuennen used when he immigrated to the United States from Germany.
Repairing baskets is a challenge Susan enjoys; as well as weaving baskets incorporating something of importance like deer antlers, vines, parts of a tree, or vacation memories. Baskets can also be embellished with shells, pine cones, antler buttons, and beads.
All of Susan’s baskets are left natural. Some are stained from her own black walnut trees or from tobacco.
Susan has two grown children who with their special friends who enjoy Fort’s Rendezvous also. Award winning baskets handcrafted by Susan Massman bring beauty, history and function into your home for all to enjoy.
Hats off to a beautiful and talented lady who makes a difference in northeast Iowa. Her photo was even in Country Magazine taken by yours truly promoting Northeast Iowa with her baskets.