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Interview with Doug Sudduth, November 3, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Doug Sudduth, November 3, 2003
November 3, 2003
Doug Sudduth offers his perspective and a rare view of what it is like to be married to a famous basketweaver. As the spouse of Billie Ruth Sudduth he offers an inside look at her unique style and growth as an artist which has turned her into a North Carolina Living Treasure.
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Interviewee:  Sudduth, Doug Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman / Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  11/3/2003 Series:  Arts Length  101 minutes


Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock. I’m one of the staff members of the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Randall Library. Today we’re in Bakersville, North Carolina which is not so far outside of Spruce Pine and I’m with Doug Sudduth.

Zarbock: Doug, what makes you famous in addition to being with me today?

Sudduth: Famous, wow, well I’m the husband of Billie Ruth Sudduth by 35 years come December 21, 2003, and I guess I think I would be the one witness on the planet to her entire career in basket weaving because I was there as she began in New Bern in about 1982 and sat there in the den in Wilmington. I think New Bern as well probably. She would sling water on my glasses and she rolled baskets and I sat in my couch potato chair and complained that she was getting water on me. The boys and I decided to put her out in the garage.

Zarbock: What does the water have to do with that?

Sudduth: All the weaving material has to be wet so she was weaving with wet material and as she would move it about the water would sling off of it in various directions.

Zarbock: I had no idea there was a hazard of this nature to this art form.

Sudduth: But she had a voracious appetite for weaving baskets and I could see that. I just didn't like getting water thrown on me so we banished her out into the garage. She complained that it was lonely out there so she made us keep the door open to the house. So since we didn't want to lose heat or air conditioning out into the garage, I devised a piece of plastic over the door. I just did things like that honestly tolerating her new found, at that time seemed like a hobby.

Zarbock: Now Doug you were not involved in any craft as such, were you?

Sudduth: Well I’m a singer, but in terms of making something with my hands, I’ve been a lifelong amateur photographer, but as far as making something other than inventing little things to make the toilet work, no, I guess you could say I was not involved in any craft like wood or glass or fiber whatever.

It really has been very, very special to be a witness to the emergence of something that came to be her love, her passion and to see her develop in it. I knew she always enjoyed it, but the progression of the street shows that she did that were not juried, just show up and put your table up or a few racks to hang the baskets on. I began to be the driver of the van and hauler for the racks for the baskets or the table and maybe the cashier if she was selling anything.

Particularly though from that beginning up to the present, I really enjoyed people so all the people that we would meet that would come by and talk about her work and just carry on conversations, that has been the pleasure wherever we have been, whatever level of show whether it be the Chrysanthemum Festival in New Bern in the early days or the Smithsonian Craft Show in D.C.

Just meeting people and chatting with them and hearing about who they are and what they do and what’s their interest in her basketry. People have their own stories to tell as to who they are and what they’re about. That’s been very satisfying to do as well as helping her with the logistics of setting up and breaking down.

Zarbock: Doug, you remember the first line of Dickens A Tale of Two Cities, “These were the best of days, these were the worst of days”. Well could you reflect a little bit, helping your wife in her artistic career, what were some of the best of days and what have been some of the worst of days?

Sudduth: Well the best of days unquestionably, a couple of best of days I guess, when her basket was installed in the permanent collection of the Renwick in the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Art. We went up for the gala event for several different works that were installed.

Zarbock: And what year was that?

Sudduth: I think it was ’96. To walk into that room and see the work in clay and wood and other mediums of people that we regard as legends in fine craft and there is this pedestal with her basket on it and it’s enclosed in this great glass or acrylic enclosure just as classy and beautiful as anything in the room was almost surreal. To see the smile on her face and to take her picture standing by her work there and one of our sons, Chris, to also be able to be there because our boys oftentimes just weren’t where they could get to those kind of events for her, I would rank that probably as the best.

Right close to it of course would be the celebration of her being awarded the North Carolina Living Treasure at UNCW because that brought together some of her primary mentors over the years and friends and family. To see her receive such an accolade really brought me to tears at one point. It was just so moving to see her so affirmed and acknowledged and applauded by so many people and particularly by that award.

Zarbock: What year was that Doug, please?

Sudduth: ’97, 1997. Now the worst of times would be, one of the worst, at least something that passes quickly but it was my fault that we moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, because I went in pursuit of a particular position in my field of community mental health. Billie Ruth was trying to start from scratch with her basket weaving there having had good success back east in New Bern where she started.

She was doing just a little show. I don’t know if you could call it a show, but it was in like a credit union building and it certainly wasn’t juried, just bring your stuff and set it up. I think all day on a Saturday maybe she didn't sell anything. She maybe got some compliments, but she sold nothing. At the end of the day she was looking pretty droopy and we were breaking down, or maybe even before we broke down, and she said, “Las Vegas sucks” because she was really discouraged.

She felt that it just wasn’t going to happen for her there. Another worst of days, we used to do a grand show, outdoor show called Spring Fest in Charlotte. It was a juried show and it was good quality work there, but it was outdoors so you had a fairly mixed crowd. A number of people were up to no good and somebody stole one of her baskets. The booth was very crowded with people and they brought it back and said that they bought it for their mother and their mother told them they already had one like it and they didn't need it so they wanted a refund.

Bless Billie Ruth’s heart, she’s got a good system and she didn't have a way of catching people doing things like that, but she has a certain inventory system that she has. She doesn’t give refunds. So she told the person they could have another basket of equal value. The person was after money. Her baskets were not terribly expensive at that time. So the person probably walked away with another $25 basket, but not any money. That was kind of an unfortunate thing to see happen.

It’s interesting a bad thing happened that turned out to be a really good thing in that they always had a storm in Charlotte. Sometime during that weekend, there’d be a storm and the wind blew through and it blew her baskets. Some of them blew off the rack. We hadn’t secured them enough yet. One blew over a construction wall that was right behind us. It was long gone. It probably wasn’t even a $50 basket.

But away it went over this construction wall. Some of the baskets were flowing down the drain, floating in the water going down. It was a pretty bad mess. As it turns out, the construction wall was the construction wall for the foundation, the deep hole being dug for what is now the Bank of America Tower. So she now has a basket in the foundation of this magnificent tower that you can see for miles away as you drive into Charlotte. But at the time, it was not a good day.

There’s one other really very bad day. There was nothing good about this day. She grieved this and I felt very badly and angry as well for her for a long, long time. We moved back from Las Vegas and shipped our goods. As we waited in our home in Wilmington as everything came off the truck and in checking things off the list, seven boxes of her baskets and many of them her cherished baskets were not present. They were supposed to be on the truck.

On the checklist, not one of the seven boxes could be found anywhere as well as her baby grand piano that she had come through her family, it was sort of in pieces. She was just in tears seeing this, a dining room table was broken. But these seven boxes of her pretty special baskets were not to be found. To make a long story short, they were never found. This was a very, very renown national moving company whose name I won’t mention.

It took a lawyer’s involvement to even get any kind of money, resolution of it, they couldn’t possibly replace those things. But I have never seen her so sad and tearful. It was a mourning process really to get over that for well over a year, not only the broken furniture which we eventually got repaired, but the loss of those seven boxes of baskets…

Zarbock: Irreparable loss.

Sudduth: That was truly a bad day. I can’t really think of anything any worse than that. In terms of as her husband and loving her the way I do to see her suffer. I mean I felt sad too and I felt angry, but particularly those seven boxes of baskets that we have no idea whatsoever whatever became of those.

Zarbock: What about humorous things. You order something and somebody shows up with a kangaroo, and as kef you ordered a kangaroo, things happen when you’re shipping and when you’re receiving. Anything happen there?

Sudduth: Something happened, I didn't think to say, I thought it was funny at the time, but my wife didn't think it was funny at all. I don’t know if she recounted this or not. She went from Las Vegas sucks from that show to being a premier basket weaver, teacher, supplier in Las Vegas in three years’ time. One of the biggest shows there was the public radio would have a big craft show.

It was always outdoors. I had to be away from the booth for a few minutes and I came back. Her face was very red. She obviously was upset and angry. Well somebody had brought their German shepherd dog with them and the dog had hiked his leg and relieved himself inside of one of her large baskets. The owner totally disclaimed the whole thing, yes, it was their dog, but it wasn’t her problem that the dog had just basically destroyed one of the baskets by hiking his leg and relieving himself.

Billie Ruth came home, the show was so embarrassed that they bought the basket. They paid her the full value of the basket because they felt so bad about it happening. She came home, a lot of people in Las Vegas have swimming pools and this was the only swimming pool we ever had, she threw it in the swimming pool to try to bleach it. I don’t know what the fate finally was of that basket. It wasn’t funny at the time, but it’s something you can chuckle about now.

Zarbock: You have really met some people who that have more gall than intelligence. The people returned a stolen basket and wanted money and now the owner of this urinating dog, puts that off like it’s inconsequential.

Sudduth: One question that has persisted over the years especially as her work is in museums and is collected and whatever and the prices have risen, invariably someone is going to say why does it cost so much. We used to try different kinds of honest answers of the value of her time and the number of hours. Most everybody knows that crafts people don’t get their time out of their work.

But we would try to conscientiously give sort of a responsible answer. Well I got tired of doing that in the last couple of years I guess. So I decided with her permission this would be my answer if they asked me, I didn't do it with an attitude, but I decided this is the way I’m going to answer that question. Very simple answer and sincere and simple and straight. Someone would say well why does it cost so much and I’d just look at them and say, “Because of who made it”.

Most people would say okay. Well there was a young man, probably early 20’s at the Civic Center in Asheville at the Southern Highland show. The booth was very busy. She was there as well as I. He came and leaned over to me in the midst of all the people there in the booth. He respectfully said, “Sir, may I ask you a question” and I said sure and he said “Why do these baskets cost so much”.

He wasn’t particularly hostile with it, but it was a straight up question. So I said, “Do you have a minute”. He said sure. I took him aside. It seemed to me that maybe, I wasn’t sure what kind of work he did, he may have even been some of the custodian staff there at the Civic Center. I said, “Tell me a little bit about you.” I wanted to find out where his values were and what did he spend his money on, and I say what do you do and what kind of wage do you make?

He said he made a labor level wage. I asked him if there was anything else that he did. He said he was a musician, that he played with a group. I asked him what kind of instrument he played. He said the guitar. I said, “Oh really, do you know the name Martin”. He said, “Yeah, yeah, I do”. I looked at her baskets and said, “Same thing”. He looked at me and said, “Oh, I get it, alright”.

I enjoyed getting into his frame of reference. As a young man, you know I wasn’t being haughty or hostile or negative. Just took his questions sincerely.

Zarbock: But once he had an equivalency, he could understand it.

Sudduth: You know there are people today, not many fortunately, there are people who will come to her booth and look at a price tag and turn to their husband or whoever’s with them and snicker or make some kind of remark about can you believe you know that this basket costs $2000 or something of that sort. My answer to that is that it’s a free country.

People should only spend their money on something that indeed is worth it to them to do. I don’t begrudge them that. I try to spend my money the same way. We know that it varies for people. All this is subjective as far as what people like because the majority of the people whether they’re buying or not, they’re seeing beautiful baskets and they’re standing in awe or whatever. I don’t have any need and I know she doesn’t to prove anything. Here they are, enjoy.

Zarbock: Take me behind, backstage as it were, the competitiveness between artists. What has been your experience? Your wife is an acclaimed basket weaver, but there are other basket weavers. Is there a competitiveness between people in that craft?

And how does it manifest itself or why doesn’t it manifest itself?

Sudduth: Well I think it’s there. I think people check on each other. People will come by her booth to see if she’s selling, maybe some other basket makers or even if they come to her booth, take a look at her prices. One clay artist, which wouldn’t be a competitor for Billie Ruth, but it’s interesting that one clay artist who is pretty good, she’s seen at different shows.

She came to her and wanted to know how do you get to be a North Carolina Living Treasure. Like was this something you applied for. You know you just have to realize that at the person’s point in their career, they don’t yet understand what reputation is about. Anywhere Billie Ruth has ever gotten, even though she’s had to apply for shows and so on, but some of the opportunities, some of the key opportunities she has had, it was strictly on reputation.

You don’t apply that I know of to teach at Penland School. Penland hears about you, check on you however they wish and then they invite you to come and teach at Penland School and that’s how she first taught in Penland School back in 1993. They had heard of her and contacted Piedmont Craftsmen out of Winston-Salem where she had shown her work before and they do a good job of promoting their artists.

The next thing Billie Ruth knows she gets a phone call from somebody at Penland School saying we’d like to talk to you about coming up here and teaching. So certainly with something like being designated as a North Carolina Living Treasure, she didn't…it’s a secret process for one thing and she did get a phone call saying you’re in the five finalists. She didn't know their cycle, she didn't know anything.

It just blew her away, the first phone call she got that said you’re in the five finalists and we need some more information about you and we’ll let you know in a few weeks. Well she stayed on the ceiling, both of us did, in anxiety about the outcome. But I promise you, because this is the kind of thing I’m a witness to as her husband, she said to me and I said back to her, “I just feel honored that I was even nominated for that much less to be in the five finalists.”

You know it would be wonderful to be the one selected, but that’s what Billie Ruth is about. She loves what she does. Most people I think that receive honors like that, they don’t go looking for them. They love what they do. They’re greatly honored when it happens, but with any experience you learn all of this is so subjective. It is totally subjective and it’s a matter of a panel of jurors to get into a juried show or some process about some kind of an award that you might receive.

I’ve seen the competitiveness from time to time. She knows these people better than I do and she may notice something maybe going on. I just remember one very good, as far as I’m concerned, very good artist, basketry artist who seemed to be just sort of noticeably near her booth during a particular show. Just sort of kind of hanging out like sort of watching what’s going on, but that’s the exception.

I don’t know why that person even did that. As far as I was concerned, their work was among the very best. For some reason, people see the need to do that, but that’s the exception. Billie Ruth has been on the best of terms with the best of competitors. They usually are very different from each other in terms of what their work even looks like, how they produce it, how they create it.

Of course the competition is there just by the nature of they’re either doing a show or they’re trying to market their work. Sometimes some artists, when she was doing her book, but this is so rare, I mean it was very rare…someone may say, well I’m not going to appear in somebody else’s book, if it’s not my book or about me, but that is so much the exception it’s hardly even worth mentioning.

I think, I’m biased obviously, grossly biased in this respect, but even in spite of that, Billie Ruth is so open to other people including competitors that she doesn’t put out those kinds of competitive vibrations even. She’s very generous with people. She’ll give them the benefit of the doubt if they do do something or say something that seems to be adverse. She doesn’t even stay with that anymore than she has to.

Zarbock: Doug, you mentioned a phrase about applying to appear in various shows. In terms of management this makes sense, you know how many booths do you need, etc., etc. What is the process for applying to appear in a show?

Sudduth: Well I’m glad you asked me that because my support of Billie Ruth is primarily logistic as far as the shelves and the lighting and the loading, unloading, whatever. She runs her own business, operates her own books. She’s got the best accountant in New Bern many years ago and an attorney to set her business up.

So the whole process of applying for a show, I’m a witness to it, although I have almost no role in it, but each show has got an actual application that you have to fill out. But you’ve also got to have slides. Her photo documentation is one of the strongest aspects of her success because of the grants she got through the Arts Council, the Cape Fear I think it was called in Wilmington, the first grant she ever got was to photo document her work. Ever since then, she’s always had excellent slides or prints or whatever she needed.

Zarbock: And these are part of the application?

Sudduth: The application is usually slides. I don’t think using a photo, printed photos, I don’t recall that she’s had to do that. That’s more for media release. You have to have usually five slides. The quality of the slide is important. She knows that. There are some very good artists who have not had good quality. Billie Ruth has been a juror herself a few times.

She’ll see somebody send in some slides and she knows their work is better than the slides show it to be. Then all the matter of the size of the booth and the setting up, contracting for the electricity, the drapes, what color the drapes are going to be, all those things, once she’s been accepted, all those things she has to sort out with whoever is the support company for that particular show so that when we arrive, then all those things are all set.

If we need telephone connection or a Visa machine, Billie Ruth arranges all of that. If we need any help in loading or unloading, if that’s an available service, it’s more than I can do, then things of that sort. But actually applying is essentially filling out their necessary forms, having documentation of your work to send in with your application. Then you wait, if she gets a letter in the mail and her slides are in that letter, then she was rejected.

I mean if there’s a little fatness in the envelope when we pick up the mail, then she didn't make it in that show.

Zarbock: Why do they keep the slides if you’re in the show?

Sudduth: For publicity. Then they’ll give them back. About the last day of the show, someone will come around and then give the slides back. That’s a nice way to get the slides back. It’s not a happy time when the slides come back in the mail. She’s been wait listed for some shows. She’s been rejected. She was rejected three years in a row.

The first three years she applied for the Smithsonian, she was rejected every year until she finally got in for the first time in the spring of 1994. So she knows about rejection.

Zarbock: And you’re back in the Smithsonian this year.

Sudduth: We don’t know yet. It’s year to year. They have a new panel of judges every year. This would be her 10th anniversary. She would have been in the Smithsonian 10 out of the past 11 years. She was wait-listed one year. Being wait listed for a show at that level, the odds are not real good that some other basket maker is going to drop out unless they had some family medical problem or something that just forced them to drop out. The odds are not good of that.

She only missed one of the last ten years and if she’s accepted for this spring of ’04, then it would be her 10th year out of the past 11 that she’s been accepted.

Zarbock: Doug, trace the process for me. You’re accepted at the Smithsonian. That means you have to send a basket or baskets, is it singular or other?

Sudduth: It’s just slides. That’s for the application process. If they send her a letter and say you’re accepted then what happens after that is all the arrangements for let’s say electrical connection, drapes, telephone connection, just those type of logistics there at the facility. Then they tell her what her setup appointment time is to come and unload, to bring in whatever her booth is going to be, the shelving and things that I basically bring in.

But you have an appointment time to show up and set up. You have a certain period of time within which you have to be set up because the show is going to open. It maybe the next day or whatever. It’s a comfortable time, but you have to be done with it because the judges are going to come around to judge any awards that they’re going to give. You want to be ready for that.

They typically have kind of a gala opening for collectors and patrons for their show the night before it’s open to the public. Then they may have some kind of fundraiser that they’re doing where they may ask artists to donate for something that they are selling tickets to or whatever and she typically does that. That’s not required and it doesn’t affect whether she gets accepted in the show or not.

Zarbock: But it’s a nice invitation, isn’t it?

Sudduth: It was actually a surprise. I don’t think she really saw this coming. The Washington Craft Show she’s been doing in more recent years. That’s different from the Smithsonian. Washington Craft Show is a fundraiser for a major, I don’t remember their formal name, but there’s a big cancer institute in D.C., a big healthcare complex. It’s a fundraiser for that.

We showed up there, it was the first year or the second year and boom, there on the cover of their program, one of her baskets was featured. It was a full picture of her basket on the front cover and then as we walked into the Convention Center from time to time we’d come across an easel with a big poster on it with a big size picture of her basket on that.

I’m not sure that she knew that they decided to do that. But that way when people come to her booth, oh yeah, they’ve got the program, they’ve seen the picture of the basket. It’s a nice recognition to get.

Zarbock: On the money side of that, do you have to pay the Smithsonian for the time and effort, the booth.

Sudduth: Every show has got a booth fee plus you have to pay the fees of the curtain people and the electrical and all of that. The joke among, well it’s not necessarily a joke sometimes, but the word among craftspeople to begin with, at the end of the first day if they say “Well I sold enough today to pay for my booth fee” or “I sold enough today to pay for my hotel room” so you haven’t started any profit yet.

Zarbock: I think that’s probably something that you contribute to. Somebody has to pay the hotel. Somebody has to drive the van. Somebody has to bring in breakfast, snacks or something. There’s just all these things that satellite around human beings when they’re doing human stuff.

Sudduth: Well I can’t emphasize enough how Billie Ruth runs her own business. I mean she fortunately is able to be ahead enough, to be resourceful enough, to pay those fees. See they have to be paid in advance. The booth fee, you know, you’re not going to show up and then pay your booth fee. There’s going to be a deadline. If you don’t get your booth fee paid, then the next person on the waiting list will be getting a phone call for them to come instead of you.

But Billie Ruth is an excellent business woman. Many people perceive artists like you know they’re just creating their work and that’s where their hearts and spirits are and they don’t necessarily see all of the business part of it. Even though I help her with what I’m calling logistics, she does her own books. She settles up at the end of every day when we’re doing a show, she’s the one that’s tallying up her credit card slips or whatever she did with credit cards and checks and cash and all of that. She manages that herself.

Zarbock: Do you have to tear down the booth every evening?

Sudduth: Only at the end. You set up at the beginning of the show before it starts and then when it’s over. That’s a very hectic, stressful kind of time because all the other people are doing the same thing. Everybody is trying to get their vehicle, if it’s an indoor show and practically every one we do now is, hopefully you can drive your vehicle right close to where your booth is, but that can be hectic itself. Everybody else is trying to do that.

You might be waiting in a long line. Basically the rule they go by is you get your booth completely broken down and ready for move out, then you come to us and tell us that, then we’ll give you a ticket so you can go get in line to drive your vehicle in because they have a lot of vehicles to keep them moving. They don’t want people just sitting somewhere and they haven’t got their booth broken down.

I think the worst of that I ever saw, there are two of them. I do feel a lot of pressure in the breakdown to try to get it done, get in line. Billie Ruth is always helping with that as much as she can. It’s not just all on me. But one year, sometimes we have shipped, not very often, but there have been times when we shipped the whole booth to the site. We did that in the early days of the Smithsonian. Then we just get on Amtrak and ride to D.C. and show up and there the boxes would be and we’d set up.

Well one year I don’t know why it was so labor intensive breaking down, but the shipping people were arriving at the site and we weren’t finished packing. The shipping people, they were nice, but they had a time frame too. They had to get loaded and get out of there. There was a lot of pressure. They were actually helping us stuff things, not baskets, but various aspects of the booth. They were helping us get packed because the sooner we got finished packing, the sooner they could get out of there.

I didn't like that. I mean it was not anybody’s fault. It was just a real pressured time. The other time there’s a monster show, it’s a great show, but it is bigger, three or four times bigger than any show we ever do. It’s called the Baltimore ACC Show, American Craft Council. It’s a wonderful show, but it’s extremely big with a lot of exhibitors and a lot of space and a lot of activity.

Well we did it one year. We were breaking down. Well somebody in their wisdom, it was in February so it was very cold in Baltimore and windy that night, somebody associated with the show opened this big giant, one of these steel kind of doors corrugated you know, it’s probably 50 feet high, 50 feet wide, a big giant door. It wasn’t even 75-100 feet away from where our booth was.

All of a sudden this door goes up, we were instantly in freezing cold temperature. It was really bad. I don’t know how long they left that stupid door open. I guess maybe eventually with enough people fussing about it, they closed it. That particular night, our strategy had been we weren’t going to full with driving into the floor cause it was so hectic. So I had to dolly and that’s when we had our original two wheel dolly, I had to pack things, as much as I could get on the dolly and dolly them out the door and down the sidewalk and up the street in the cold weather.

That’s some of the rougher parts of breaking down a show. In recent years, it’s more of just a hectic, get the show broken down and get the load-in pass to get your vehicle in and hopefully not have to wait too long in line to finally get your vehicle in and then get it loaded. But there’s a sense of pressure because so many other people are trying to do the same thing. They’re trying to get around where you are. It’s just a feeling of pressure to get all that done.

Plus you want to get out of town. If you’re leaving that night or since I retired, we’re able to not have to rush to be at work the next day or something, then we can go back and stay one night at the hotel and then leave the next morning to come home.

Zarbock: In general characteristically how long are the shows? How many days?

Sudduth: Typically opening on a Thursday and running through Sunday. There are some that open on Friday and run through Sunday. I think the longest would be probably opening on a Thursday. There may be one or two, Billie Ruth knows this better than me, they have a gala on Wednesday night and open on Thursday. Probably average is a Thursday through Sunday.

Zarbock: Do you like what you’re doing?

Sudduth: I like it because of meeting people and I like it because I enjoy Billie Ruth’s success with her work. I’m really proud of her and I brag on her. I can say things about her that a husband has license to say, that she’s not going to be talking about herself like that. The downside is the pressure to break down more than set up, but we’ve done it all these years so we get more efficient.

I think the best symbol, I wish I had it sitting here to show you, but the biggest symbol of my own retirement is that I have had a nice size briefcase that I put my work in that had to do with my day job as they say and once I retired, I converted that briefcase into putting cushion material, foam in it and that’s where we put the lighting for her booth. I love it. I put duck tape on it just to make sure it doesn’t pop open. I feel sure it wouldn’t. But all it carries now is this foam material and I cut out holes in the foam for each light bulb to be safe in. That’s what we use for her lights instead of what I used to do.

Zarbock: Doug, in this world of organizations and titles, how would you entitle your job? You would call yourself what?

Sudduth: I really thank you for asking that. I joke about that a lot. I’ve gone from husband to volunteer to I think the highest rank I have achieved is assistant. I tell somebody I got promoted from volunteer to assistant. I think I haven’t…I may have gotten assistant craft artist perhaps, but I really will answer to whatever title. But I think probably the more typical one that my badge will say is assistant. Doug Sudduth, Assistant.

Being identified in a show for security purposes and so on, you wear your badge if you’re an artist or if you’re an assistant. But occasionally more likely a female will lean over to my wife and I’ll hear them say to her, “So what does he do”. People ask me if I help make the baskets. It’s like you’re just sitting here idle (laughter). But I like interchanges with people so it’s a joke to me. I have had my own career experience with titles and I’m basically just very proud to be her husband and all the other titles are basically kind of irrelevant to me.

I was interviewed by one television station in eastern North Carolina one time. They motioned me over and said they wanted to talk to me about how I relate to her and her craft. I looked at her with a frustrated look on my face and I said, “I’m just her husband. I don’t know anything about basket weaving”. That’s exactly what they put on the evening news, me saying, “I’m just her husband” and they put underneath, didn't even put my name. It just said husband. I’ll take that. That’s just fine with me.

Zarbock: That’s not a put down.

Sudduth: She’s the artist hands down, I’m the husband and occasionally referred to as the assistant.

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