Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I don't know that I have the energy to write very much today, so I'm going to share some basket photos with you. Most of the ones I'm posting are Pomo baskets. I'll try to remember to say if they come from another Tribe. These pictures were taken last night when we went to the Hearst Museum's off-site basket storage facility. They hold some 10,000 baskets, 9,000 of which are Native Californian. I don't know that there's any way to adequately convey the weight of all of those baskets stashed away in rolling bookshelves.
That's just one row. And each of those bookshelves is filled with baskets.
Little baskets, big baskets, burden baskets, fish traps, baby baskets. You are all hand-workers. You know that when you put yourself into something you create, when you make it right so that it will do its job and last and be something lovely to rest the eyes on, you want it to be used. We all know the tragedy of giving someone a handknitted shawl, say, and having the recipient tuck it away in mothballs "for special" (am I speaking from experience? indeed I am). This was like that, times 9,000.

I am always in awe of the little bitty presentation baskets, decorated with feathers and beads.
(I admit, I sometimes fret about all the little topknotless quail running around.)

Some are so small, I can't imagine anyone's hands being dextrous enough to weave them. That blurry object in the left corner is my thumb, for scale.
And the patterns. My goodness, the patterns.
These basket caps are woven so tightly that water can't come through. (They're from further north, as you can see from the sign.)
I wish these could come back into use, but of course, they can't be touched with bare hands, as they've been treated with mercury and other pesticides over the years. They can only be held while wearing gloves.
Tomorrow: Back to language


Anne said...

Klamath? One of my dissertation texts was In the Land of the Grasshopper Song. Do you know it?

twinsetellen said...

Stunning, just stunning. And I see visions of circular yokes.

It is astounding to see so many tucked away from sight. I suppose I should be happy they are being preserved for future study, but it does seem kind of like a mausoleum for crafted beauty.

EGunn said...

Beautiful. I can't believe those tiny little baskets! I agree that it's sad not to see them being used, but at the same time, I'm glad that they are being kept safe. If people were to stop knitting, I think I'd want a shawl or two kept in mothballs, a sort of time-capsule to ensure that the craft continues into the future. Museums always seem sad to me, because things that were once part of life are now left behind. Still, I'm glad they're there.

Mary Lou said...

Lucky you, to see those tiny works of art. At least they are somewhere safe and cool.

Gwen said...

Oh dear. Dead baskets. (Mercury and Pesticides?!!) Beautiful, stunning work. Now I want to cry, too.

Carrie K said...


Samantha said...

Thank you for the pictures of baskets; I particularly liked the spirally one.
I know what you mean about museums - my husband and I were visiting a museum which housed a barrel organ meticulously restored to playing condition. We were allowed to listen to a recording of it playing, but it is now "never played, in case it gets damaged". Why, then, was it restored to playing condition? Surely it should be played even if only once a year?
Also, I share the dismay of any knitter whose hand-made gift has been greeted with "It's so beautiful - I'll never wear it, I'd rather frame it and hang it on the wall." Bah!

Alwen said...

Those baskets are making me cry now.