Ann Chase, a Passionate Craftsman
Esther Ann Chase passed away quietly in her home, surrounded by family, on February 8th. She was 94.
The daughter of Hiram Arthur Schubert and Ruth (Johnson) Schubert, Ann was born in East Rockaway, New York on December 11, 1926. She spent her childhood years in Lynbrook on Long Island, where her father was school principal and her mother a French teacher. She and her older sister, Jane, grew up in a home surrounded by craftwork: her father a painter, silversmith and woodcarver; her mother a maker of clothes, hooked rugs, and ornaments. Ann’s destiny as a professional craftsman was as passionately pursued as it was inevitable.
Ann attended Dean Junior College and then the School for American Craftsman at Alfred University, where she befriended many soon-to-be famous craftsmen of her day, including ceramicists, woodworkers and Native American jewelry makers. Her craft of choice was weaving. She always referred to herself as a craftsman, not artisan or craftsperson, as that was the title of her degree.
After her college years, Ann worked at Old Sturbridge Village as the village weaver. In 1950 she represented the Village in the Sportsman’s Show, an expo at the Grand Central Palace in New York City. There she met a young hotelier, Paul Chase. Paul, a recent college graduate and about to enter the Army, was representing the Vineyard and his family’s multi-generational hotel on Oak Bluffs harbor, the Wesley House. On May 26, 1953 they married. Ann and Paul lived in Hampton, Virginia for their first year where Paul finished his last assignment at Fort Monroe, and then they hastened back to the Vineyard so that their first child could be born on the Vineyard, as were all their sons. Soon thereafter they settled permanently on the Island, Paul managing the Wesley with his father, Ann setting up her first shop “Ayn’s Shuttle Shop” in the hotel. Besides her work, Ann was active in church and civic causes, including the Triniteers, Eastern Star, and teaching through the Dukes County Extension Service.
When the Wesley sold in 1985, Ann moved her shop to Edgartown for several years. After that, she and other Island craftsmen formed the Women’s Co-op a cooperative where they sold their wares in Vineyard Haven. She later sold her goods out of Rainy Day in Vineyard Haven, Secret Garden in Oak Bluffs, via her website, and out of her home studio near East Chop.
Weaving was only the foundation of Ann’s craft work, and she was constantly experimenting with various materials, media and endless new products, most notably hand-sculpted and painted lampshades, Christmas ornaments, and glass cup plates. Never content with creativity for its own sake, the thread that connected all her work was utility: a product had to be as useful as it was beautiful, well-crafted and durable for everyday use. Her early woven work was known for its detail and intricate patterning. Besides curtains, dresses, scarves, ties and other clothing, she eventually concentrated on placemats. Known for their durability (customers still write to say they use them decades later), she sold thousands. In her later years her eyesight began to fail, but her creativity prevailed and her craftsmanship adapted. She turned from detail and concentrated instead on bold colors and patterns. The personality of her shop changed from a place of elegant beauty to one of youthful exuberance. Up until the last few months of her life, Ann was never without a project in hand and even after she could no longer weave, she was never without a new creation or color combination in mind. From her tiny shop on the Vineyard, her placemats and lampshades found their way to every state in the country, and in countries throughout the world. Well over a thousand miles of yarn have passed through her hands.
To Ann, craftwork was a life-fulling profession, a love second only to the love for her family, which was unwavering and unconditional. She had few but deep friendships. Her particular delight was teaching craft to others, particularly the young. She took great pride in the accomplishments of talented protégés, including Johanna Klingensmith and Erin Mercer.
Ann is survived by her husband, Paul, her sons Whit, Dana and Tom, her daughter-in-law Cathy Chase, and her nieces Susan Mercer of Florida and Linda Knappenberger of Colorado and their families. The Chase family thanks Ann’s support network, all of whom became like family, including Gertrude Ahey, Jeni Allen, her beloved friend Sue Angele, Island Australia, Sandi Corr-Dolby, Cheryl Kram, Kamil Furtado, Alison Graczykowski, Kate Kane, Lilly Kinba, Rachel Perry and Elise Ray. A graveside service will be arranged at a post-pandemic date. In lieu of flowers, and in keeping with Ann’s penchant for utility, contributions may be made to American Cancer Society online at https://www.cancer.org/.