Art, not food, is the goal

He has exhibits of his craft in all but one of the globe’s continents.

And that is something that Daniel Kramer, wheat weaver and one-time owner of the former retail shop The Top Drawer in St. Jacobs, has been looking to remedy with a vacation to Antarctica.

“I was trying to get a piece down there just so that I could say my work has made it to every continent – I might have to do a trip myself,” said Kramer with a chuckle.

Daniel Kramer turned an early appreciation for the ancient craft of wheat weaving into a career and a lifelong passion that continues to grow.
Daniel Kramer turned an early appreciation for the ancient craft of wheat weaving into a career and a lifelong passion that continues to grow.

After 30 years of operating The Top Drawer, Kramer closed his shop at the end of last month. Although he is now pulling away from the retail side of things, he will continue to make new creations from his home studio in Waterloo and sell them through his former retail neighbour at the Village Silos, Elsa Brigden Elliott . Her store, the Silo Weavers, will continue to carry Kramer’s products as well as those created by other artists formerly affiliated with his shop.

Kramer’s foray into the world of wheat weaving happened serendipitously.

It’s “very much by chance,” he says, that he became involved with the craft some 35 years ago, after graduating from Conestoga College with a diploma in social work. A cousin, who had discovered the art form in Europe, passed it on to his relatives and Kramer took a profound interest, eventually opening the Top Drawer in 1979.

As he delved further into the craft, Kramer sought to learn more, joining an American association of weavers, and picking up books that explored the tradition. He even got in touch with some crafts-people in England who sent him booklets on the history, patterns, and techniques of wheat weaving. He continued to experiment, travelling to England a few times.

“It’s been an ongoing journey. In many ways I am still very much learning. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning because there are new things to try.

“It’s kind of endless as far as trying new things.”

Kramer’s creations draw on both traditional patterns as well as those inspired by his own imagination. From ornaments for the home to earrings, he has made all types of wheat-woven articles.

Some of his more popular articles – especially with tourists to St. Jacobs or locals looking to buy a local specialty for people abroad – were his own creations.

In speaking with his clients, Kramer quickly learned that the ancient craft of wheat weaving is a common tradition in many cultures around the world – from the British Isles and Morocco to Greece and Iraq. It is an ancient art form that in many cultures has its roots in pagan, pre-Christian times. For many people, it was part of a ritual closely tied to the harvest. In Europe it was later absorbed by Christian cultures as they decorated their churches with wheat creations during the harvest.

Raised in an agricultural area, Kramer never had a problem obtaining wheat. Along with his employees and his family members, every July Kramer would take to the fields with a sickle in hand.

“For me that has always been a part of the craft,” he said.

“I’ve always tried to stress that part of the craft was the gathering – getting out in that field – feels a lot different than going to a craft store and buying a bag of wheat. If you can go gather it yourself, that’s part of the whole experience of the craft, and I think you’ll get more from it.”

Although Kramer closed his shop in part because he felt a need to get out of the world of retail, he still feels the urge to keep weaving. And this he will do part-time.

“I’ll definitely keep my hand in the craft, although it’s just not going to be 100 per cent of my time.”

That said, he’ll likely miss a thing or two about his St. Jacobs shop.

“I enjoy people so, that’s the thing I’ll probably miss the most is the people.”

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  1. I once took a class in Washington state and made a wheat weaving. I would like to buy some books and wondered if you could recommend some. I live in Utah and no one here has even heard of wheat weaving. I got hooked some 20 years ago and would like to learn as much as I can. Thank you, Linda

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