CHAPEL HILL -- Pat Lloyd and Douglas Odom don't head off to the store to buy art supplies when their stash of materials runs out. Instead, they head for the trees -- Odom to collect longleaf pine needles, and Lloyd to cut up wood that has fallen or been felled.
Odom, a basket maker, and Lloyd, a wood turner, began collaborating a few years ago. The fruits of their partnership can always be seen at Womancraft Fine Handcrafted Gifts at The Shops at Eastgate in Chapel Hill. Now through October 15, their work is set up in the store's spotlight gallery.
The pieces on display will engender a lot of wows. The store is noted for its annual storewide sale, this year set for Nov. 7 and 8.
Lloyd became a member of Womancraft, a local artists' co-op, where she got her start showing her wood creations.
"Douglas and I started sharing a shift and I was really admiring her coiled pine needle baskets," she said. "You have to have a base to attach the pines needles to, and she was using round pottery disks or old quilts. I told her that I could make her some turned wood bottoms for those."
Easier offered than accomplished. Each basket base can have as many as 100 holes around the edge, and they must be evenly spaced and a uniform distance from the edge. Lloyd thought, "How am I going to do this?"
The solution was a device called an indexing wheel that made the precise work possible. Lloyd had been investigating turned wood vessels and, intrigued with the pottery shapes created by Southwestern Indians, she suggested to Odom that pine needles would make an interesting embellishment to the collar of a pot. "Sometimes Douglas is the primary artist with her baskets, and sometimes I am primary with a wood turned vessel," Lloyd said.
Odom has been making baskets most of her life using a variety of materials. In 1996, she moved to Chapel Hill and became a member of Womancraft.
Carol Pio, who worked with her on her shift at the store, made baskets out of Carolina longleaf pine needles. The two became friends, and Odom asked Pio to teach her the stitch she used in making the baskets.
"I was hooked from that point on," Odom said. "I told Carol that I would never sell my baskets as competition as long as she was at Womancraft."
It was only after Pio passed away in 2005 that Odom began to show her pine needle baskets at Womancraft, and even then only after she sought Pio's husband's blessing. He gave that to Odom, along with Pio's materials.
Longleaf pine needles fall in September, and Odom takes full advantage of this natural event.
"You want to get them before they have been rained on a lot and get spotted from mildew," Odom said. "I like to pick them up as they fall. I want them to be straight. If they have been raked up, I don't want them. I make sure all the shafts stay together, and bundle them with twist ties so they dry straight."
She has passed along her skills to others who have asked, but no one else has caught the fever she has for the craft.
"It is very, very tedious," she said. "You have to be exacting and do tight work. I'm as tight as a tick so it fits my personality."
She works three hours every night on her needlework, sitting in her grandmother's gooseneck rocker, and spends the rest of her day creating the patchwork sewn items she sells at the store.
On a whim, when Lloyd retired six years ago she took a woodturning class at Alamance Community College.
"Within two weeks of starting the class my husband and I were at the Woodcraft store in Raleigh looking at a lathe," Lloyd said. "It was a small lathe, so if the intoxication didn't last were not out all that much."
One lathe led to another and another, and now she has a large one that can turn pieces of up to 30 inches in diameter.
Wood comes to her through a network that includes friends, arborists, and other wood turners. She and her husband get a call, load up the chainsaw and go cut into smaller pieces a tree that has been felled or branches that have been trimmed.
The caretakers of Ayr Mount, the historic plantation in Hillsborough, are friends. They called Lloyd two years ago to take some sugar maple wood that had died.
"Nine months later I turned a number of pieces and gave a platter I made to them as thanks," Lloyd said. "The wood was incredible. I don't know if it was because of the age of the tree or the type. It had a beautiful grain, color and luminescence. You just wanted to hold it and hug it."
Both artists have embraced their collaboration.
"It is so much fun to have that mutual exploration of, 'What do you think about this?' and 'Can you do that' and 'Let's try it!' It adds a whole new level to one's work," Lloyd said.