Kimberley Dietz sits in a coffeehouse booth surrounded by a dozen of the baskets she's woven since picking up the hobby three years ago.
A woman nearby slowly whirls a stirring stick around in her coffee while her eyes stay fixed on the baskets. After a bit more studying, she comes over to the booth. "Are you selling these?"
Dietz, 52, shakes her head. She doesn't sell them. But in the awkward pause that follows, she makes a suggestion: "You should learn to weave. It's better than any therapist."
The lady's smile drops off her face. "I'm studying to become a therapist."
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After she leaves, Dietz grins sheepishly and says to me, "I couldn't have said that to a bus driver?"
We meet at the coffee shop to discuss her hobby. Basket weaving, she says, has helped her fit into the South.
Dietz has lived in Sheffield Manor for 10 years, but before that, she came from Indianapolis, where she describes the people as more in-your-face. "We tell it the way it is," she said. "If we like it, you know it. If we don't, you know it."
That hasn't always gone over so well in the South for her, she said, making it hard to find her niche. After seven years of looking, she was ready to give up. "I wanted to go home."
Then she met the basket makers, who shared their passion for weaving with the newcomer, and made her feel accepted.
Each month Dietz and a few others from Cabarrus County make the trek to Matthews for the monthly meeting of Dream Weavers, where they make friends while they make baskets.
Basketry feeds her creative outlet, said Dietz, who has tried quilting, but prefers the faster turnaround of making a basket. She has woven one in as little as two hours. Her longest took eight hours.
Reeds of all kind scatter about in her house. Her fingers have woven more than 300 baskets since she began three years ago, and the thrill seems just as evident in the 301st as it was in the first.
She picks up a creation off the table and says with wonderment, "This was a tree less than a year ago."
Each year Dietz joins hundreds of others in Raleigh for the annual North Carolina Basketmakers' Association Convention. Each time, she picks up new weaving techniques from other weavers and meets new friends.
They sit together in the convention hall. Small water containers of all sorts, from Tupperware to collapsible dog bowls, soak the reeds they will soon weave into Easter, market, even toothpick-holding baskets.
They mingle with celebrities in the weaving world, like Tika Tucker, a basketry artist whose work reminds Dietz more of modern art than the frequent Americana-themed baskets she often sees.
Dietz admires her even more for her gumption to create baskets different from the norm.
She remembers from 10 years ago what it's like to feel different from the norm.
"When I think of basket weaving, I think Americana. And there are a lot of us who are not Americana," said Dietz.