In the same realm of embellished caps is this cap from the Hailstone Collection, woven by Ada Charles in the 1930’s using the red strip from cigarette packs as an overlay embellishment. It is striking to see the shiny red material against the glossy black of the maidenhair fern. Previously to get a red color in a basket, a weaver would dye woodwardia fern a rusty red using alder bark. This material would be a matte rusted red color in the basket. I can see the allure and striking decision to incorporate such a common material into this basket cap. This practice of using cigarette pack strips waned as people realized the fragility of the material over time.
This week, we'll hear from Brittany Britton, the Registrar-Curator for the Nealis Hall Native American Collections. She'll be discussing a few of the interesting finds she's had while working on an inventory of the collections.
Working with the Nealis Hall basket collection, and looking through our storage area I have been finding interesting baskets that have some materials that deviate from the norm. We are used to seeing baskets that have the typical overlay decoration of beargrass, alder dyed woodwardia fern, maidenhair fern, and wolf moss dyed porcupine quills as the decorative element in basketry here in the Northwest California coast. What have been of interest are the moments when local weavers took chances with other materials.
Most ceremonial caps will have design work on the crown with traditional materials, but here we have woven dyed yarn added into the overlay for a different color such as this cap from the 1890’s from the Hastings collection.
Finally a fabric embellishment that serves more of a utilitarian purpose. This acorn flour hopper was collected by Cecile Clarke, it is an item used to keep pounded acorn flour in place when using a mortar and pestle.
When I look at our collections it serves to highlight that the notion of traditional materials changes over time with processes. People use what is available to them throughout time, and these man-made materials are what were available and not seen as a detractor to the basket they made.
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