Remembering a friend: Margrit Binkley

A throwback photo from '02 when an article was published about Grovewood Gallery.  Gita 3rd from left.

A throwback photo from '02 when an article was published about Grovewood Gallery.  Gita 3rd from left.

We lost a beloved member of the Asheville craft community in October 2017.  Margrit (Gita) Binkley was a native of Switzerland, lived in north Asheville, and worked at Grovewood Gallery for approximately 30 years.  She loved art and handmade and you could easily see that reflected in her home.  Cooking, gardening, quilting and supporting her neighbors and friends kept Gita going after her move to Asheville.  She had four children of her own, and many grandchildren, but she adopted her Grovewood family and took care of all of us as well.

Gita could not be idle, she was a salesperson at the gallery (until she was well up in her 80’s), but she also did the 'not so fun' job of packing and shipping to customers; she prepared gift boxes by unfolding the flat boxes, building them, and neatly and precisely folding the tissue to fit inside (every time she made it perfect!) then she stacked them by the work table in the back room for staff to have easily available. She would not hesitate to tell us when the office was getting too cluttered.  And, she kept a close eye on any children who might occasionally misbehave on the gallery sales-floor.  Her eagle eye kept any mischief from taking place :)

Gita kept a constant flow of home cooked treats coming in the door for her fellow staffers.  She sort-of cycled through her favorites of the moment, including: chocolate chip banana bread; rotisserie chicken, brie and French bread from the nearby Fresh Market grocery; homemade rhubarb pie; double chocolate chip cookies…from a recipe she got from Good Morning America; then there was the time she was stuck on making vichyssoise – it was not our favorite (but we ate it because we hated to disappoint Gita, and knew she worked hard cooking for us.  I think some staff sneaked to the bathroom and poured it out!)  If you were sick, she brought or sent homemade chicken noodle soup.  Then there was her special childhood Swiss cookies she made and brought in around Christmas time (they were little bricks).  If you received an invitation to her home, you likely enjoyed shrimp and grits or even steak from her outdoor grill.

My oldest son, Ian, was the first ‘Grovewood baby’ and he received a special handmade baby quilt by Gita.  She loved to quilt, she didn’t use a sewing machine – all of the piecing and quilting was done by hand.  Gita made lots of quilts. I think certainly all of her grandchildren got a quilt.  She occasionally made one to sell in the gallery.

In her ‘spare time’ (ha) Gita was an excellent gardener.  She was proud of her lovely flower garden and often brought cut flowers in to the gallery to brighten a vase or ikebana arrangement on the sales counter. 

Gita worked for The Homespun Shop of Biltmore Industries before the shop was renovated and renamed Grovewood; she stayed on through many transitions and growth periods.  She and I worked together on Sundays in the early days of Grovewood Gallery.  She “told me” I should make two needlepoint designs for her chairs that needed new seats – I did.  She suggested I plant climbing hydrangeas at my and Marks’ new home, which had a shady retaining wall area – we did.  I still have many recipes she gave me.  I wish I had more photos of her.

On one occasion Mark and I planned a trip to Europe and Gita went out of her way to list places and sites we should go see – and to tell us memories from her youth when she traveled to different countries.  She was an amazing woman.  She inspires me still.  Thank you, Gita Binkley, for being such a giving person.