• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Downtown shop celebrates handmade uniqueness

ELIZABETH WORLEY - better known as That Kentucky Lady -dips her handmade baskets in a natural walnut stain she makes herself. Worley also incorporates vintage kitchen, garden and other tools in her basket designs. She has a booth at Green Street Gifts & Antiques in downtown Versailles. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Handwoven Baskets by That Kentucky Lady have been available at Green Street Gifts & Antiques in downtown Versailles since June. And its owners say they couldn't be happier. Neither could Elizabeth Worley - better known as That Kentucky Lady. "I love this store," she says. "The uniqueness of the building, but mainly it's the ladies that make it" a special place for the crafters and the customers who walk into this shop. "We have a lot of good customers who come in every week to see what's new," says Sherry Blake. She and Patty Browning opened Green Street Gifts & Antiques in April 2016. Twenty-five vendors now fill this one-of-a-kind building constructed in the 1870s. The Look of Kentucky offers a shared space for local artisans - "most of them are right here in Versailles," says Blake. Worley, who has been making baskets for 33 years, says she thought her creativity was gone after she was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago. Chemotherapy treatments had taken a toll on her. "Nothing was coming. And I thought I've just lost it," she remembers. So she decided to make simple, little baskets - "one right after another..." Three weeks later, she felt the Lord impressing on her to "start putting old stuff on the baskets. And that's what I've been doing for 15 years," says the Kentucky Crafted artist. Her baskets are now adorned with vintage rolling pins or horse bits and horseshoes - her latest accessories. Memory baskets are an opportunity for Worley to add grandmother's kitchen utensils or dad's tools on ornamental one-of-a-kind baskets with sentimental meaning. "And those (keepsakes) are not stuck in a drawer," she adds. Worley credits her mom, Renate Dawson, who was never a crafty person before retirement, for teaching her how to make market and egg baskets after taking a basket weaving class. Since learning the basics, Worley says, "We've always tried to do different things. And I think that's one reason that I still have this longevity. "The Lord," she continues, "is blessing me with coming up with new ideas," while many other ladies she's known over the years have given up the craft of basket weaving. Her trade-marked business moniker - That Kentucky Lady - arose from an experience at a craft show in St. Louis. As she and her mother ran to their car to get their baskets out of the rain, two women came running after them yelling, "Kentucky Lady, Kentucky Lady, we want to buy a basket." A self-described Army brat, whose father retired in Kentucky, Worley considers the Bluegrass state her home. She returned in 1990 and continued making Handwoven Baskets by That Kentucky Lady. "I don't call it work," explains Worley, "because I love what I do. I get tired. And my hands bother me, because I've arthritis now, but I love it." So she'll continue until the Lord stops giving her ideas. Cancer, she reminds other survivors, "yea, it's bad, but it can also be good" as proven by her baskets with cherished items and memories incorporated into their handwoven designs. "She'll custom-make a basket for someone if you have an article that was your grandpa's ... She's very unique for what she does," says Blake, who like many of her vendors and her business partner had to find something to do after retiring. "I stayed at the same place for 33 years and she (Browning) has had 33 jobs," says Blake laughing. Green Street Gifts & Antiques will host an open house for Handwoven Baskets by That Kentucky Lady on Saturday, Oct. 28, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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