Friday, November 12, 2010

The magic of trees....and baskets

Baskets have always fascinated me for their textural and other artistic qualities. When we first moved to Oregon in the early 1970's I took a class in pine needle basketry and made numerous small baskets from the long needles of the few Ponderosa Pine that we had on our property. I also tried my hand at weaving melon-shaped baskets using some of our grapevines.

Recently I attended a two day workshop on weaving cedar bark baskets in the tradition of the Haida Indians. Instructor Nancy Olson brought gorgeous strips of yellow and red cedar bark that she had personally gathered in the forests of Alaska. It was beautiful stuff! After soaking in basins of water, the bark strips felt like soft leather. For inspiration, she also brought many examples of baskets that she has woven over the many shapes and sizes!

Getting started involved making decisions about color and form. The baskets would be small in order for us to have time in the two day period to finish. Some of the bark strips had been dyed black for accents, but other materials, such as Maidenhair fern, and Bear grass, were available. Beads, shells, bones, feathers, and other ornamentation could be added once the basket weaving
was completed.
My two baskets ready to take home! I can't wait to try weaving a few more. The design possibilities are endless! One of my favorites among the many examples that Nancy brought to the workshop was a soft textured basket in green and pale yellow.  

With 12 acres on the edge of a rain forest.... that includes many cedar, fir, and walnut trees, I plan to do a bit of careful harvesting... next Spring when the sap starts running ( the best time to harvest) We just finished a very late grape harvest, the leaves of the vineyard have turned yellow below the row of one hundred year old black walnut is a beautiful time to witness nature at it's best. My beloved trees will again give back...and I can dream of sitting by the fire weaving their glowing bark strips into something magical.

I think my basket collection will be growing!