Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Baskets Meaning and Reason

Baskets have both meaning and reason. The meaning of Cherokee basketry, evident in legend, custom, and history, relates to the role and work of women as the source of food and life, as providers and sustainers for their families.

The direct evidence, Cherokee baskets, is quite variable. Few baskets have survived from the eighteenth century. Perhaps a dozen remain from the early19th century, before removal.

Toward the end of the 19th century, basket collectors discovered the Cherokees, and accordingly, from the turn of that century to the present, many baskets of rivercane, white oak, and honeysuckle can be found in collections in Oklahoma, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Tennessee, and North Carolina.

The second primary source of information about preremoval Cherokees is government documents. These, however, are most concerned with politics. ...giving little information about women and almost none about their transforming work in ecosystems.

Louise Goings says that "everybody has their own way of making stuff.""Their own way" includes details such as basket shapes, split widths, organization of colors, and varieties of ornamentation like rim bindings and curls. There is also something ineffable about their work that basketmakers can't define. In the long run, as one explains, "even my own baskets, I know, they're not two made alike."

Contemporary weaver Agnes Welch says that she makes a basket the way she does because "that's how it is supposed to look."

In a basket, there is both something very personal and something related to a collective consciousness.

source: Weaving New Worlds by Sarah Hill