ENCINITAS — “Pine Needle Artistry,” a celebration of the basketry of the late Beverley Roberts, will be on exhibit at the Civic Center Gallery until April 16.Roberts applied to mount an exhibit with the city of Encinitas last year, but passed away Feb. 20. She had been battling cancer for several years and died while visiting her mother in Thailand where she grew up. Roberts was reported to be upbeat and working on new baskets for the exhibit at the time of her death.“The Visual Art Selection Committee reviewed more than 85 applications and selected 32 for 2012,” Jim Gilliam, arts administrator, said. “Beverley’s was chosen. They especially responded to the artistic quality of her work and use of recycled natural materials. For an artist working in basketry for less than two years, she excelled in this art form.”
Roberts’ instructor and friend, Nadine Spier, worked closely with Gilliam to proceed with the exhibit.
Spier remembers first meeting Roberts 18 months ago when she called after seeing one of Spier’s baskets at a gallery in Idyllwild.
“She wanted to learn how to weave baskets,” Spier said. “That phone call started us on a wonderful journey. Each month she would attend my home workshops and I was always amazed at the enthusiasm this woman had for life and for learning basketry.”
Spier added, “She inspired other students at the table and always cheered them on in their work. Soon other students started to schedule classes when Beverley was coming just to soak up this wonderful woman.”
Spier said several months passed before she learned that Roberts was going through treatment for breast cancer, liver cancer and melanoma.
“I asked her a few months ago how she could remain so happy, energetic and buoyant despite going through chemo. She replied, ‘Because I choose to. I choose to be happy. I always have.’”
Friend Marianne Maichen said basketry provided relaxation when Roberts went through chemotherapy.
“She’d say, ‘No gloom and doom for me, I want this to be fun,’” Maichen said. “She’d ask friends to be with her while she worked on her baskets. She’d have four to six women there and we would all be laughing.”
Maichen remembers Roberts diligently working on her baskets, even on a cruise to Alaska.
“People just gravitated to her,” she said. “Even though there were close to 2,000 people on the cruise, everyone knew who Beverley was. They’d call her ‘The Basket Lady.’”
Maichen said Roberts was so excited to have an exhibit at City Hall that she couldn’t keep track of all the people she told.
“I probably heard her tell 30 to 40 different people within a week. She’d say the same thing, ‘They are going to do it for me! I can’t believe it!” she said.
Catherine Mowbray-Lorenz was a close friend of Roberts’ for 30 years.
“Beverley’s basket weaving art gave her great joy during the last year-and-a-half of her life,” she said. “No one knew that she would take to her newest craft with such remarkable abilities and demonstrate the rare, fine workmanship that had become her hallmark. She was thrilled and flattered to be asked to participate in this exhibit in Encinitas.”
She added, “It was a confirmation of her fresh talent that others had already realized. This exhibit has allowed her to share this legacy with the community to enjoy and appreciate for years to come.”
Family, friends, members of the Misti Washington Gourd and Basket Guild and the public are invited to a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. March 27 at the gallery. The exhibit also features work by Michal Costello, Susan Roberts, Willie Zeigler and Nadine Spier. Light refreshments will be served.
“Beverley loved red, and decorated her house with red so we are all going to wear red to the exhibit,” Maichen added.
The Civic Center Gallery is located in the lobby of Encinitas City Hall, 505 S. Vulcan Ave., in Encinitas. It is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. City Hall is closed on alternating Fridays.
For information about Spier’s “Ornate Pine Needle Basketry” class, visit nadinespier.com.