Jim "Bo" and Martha Branden, Weaverville, NC
Members since 2021 and 2019, respectively
Martha and Bo Branden are an easy-going couple with a playful spirit whom you may have already met at Local Cloth activities. Last month I had a chance to get on a zoom with Martha and Bo, members of Local Cloth since 2019. They joined after they relocated from Charlotte to a beautiful home in Weaverville. There they indulge in the glorious sunrises and dramatic sunsets over the French Broad River valley and the mountains to the north. “I want to know I’m in the mountains,” said Bo to describe their motivation for their uniquely placed home.
Their home, designed by Bo, is the center for the couple’s on-going stream of creativity and design. The upstairs holds Martha’s studio with a specially designed closet for storage of her stash. Can we really call it a closet? It is floor to ceiling with the ultimate in custom-designed shelves to organize all of Martha’s fiber needs – yes, it was designed by Bo.
Martha is a self-taught fiber enthusiast, with the exception of weaving. She enjoyed a class at John C. Campbell learning to weave “a scarf in a weekend”. This was just after she retired from her job as a paramedic. Martha commented that if she found a few moments while on duty as a paramedic, working a few stitches helped manage the pressures of the job. She searched out Local Cloth when they moved to Weaverville, seeking that fiber community connection in her new world of western NC. Since she was a young girl, Martha has always had her hands involved in some craft. Her aunt taught her to knit, and while in high school, Martha and her cousin supported each other as they knit their first sweaters.
Downstairs, visitors are laughingly greeted into Bo’s workshop with his welcome “by authorized admission only”. It’s his space for making ‘man glitter’. “I make sawdust to see what’s inside.” He defines Martha’s knitting as “…beating two sticks in the air until something falls off!” He like the pure enjoyment of the challenge to do something different: candle holders, French rolling pins, cubed wooden boxes…, plus every style shuttle or other needle workers’ tools that Martha can suggest. For Bo the possibilities are unlimited.
The couple collaborates on items such as the wooden bow ties that Jim creates; Martha sews the middle loop and neck band. Bo has a lathe and makes most of the square and wood rounds including wooden beads that Martha uses in her jewelry designs that combines seed beads and other gemstones. The couple helped with skirting fleeces last summer which were part of the production for the Blue Ridge Blanket project. You can find Bo volunteering in the retail store where his wooden shuttles and other tools are sold.
It’s been a love affair ever since. Last question, who changes the light bulbs in the house?
Answer: whoever finds it first!
Interview by Colleen Troy.