Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Weaving today

The majority of modern Cherokee weavers are older women on the Qualla reservation in North Carolina, but this does not mean that basket making among these people is a dying art. None of the presently recognized weavers began to make baskets regularly until they were in their late twenties or older, and there are a number of younger women who are now learning the craft and beginning serious basket production.

North Carolina weavers tend to specialize as to materials used and shapes or designs preferred, but all utilize locally gathered materials and for the most part natural dyes. Among the weavers are: Emma Taylor and Carol S.Welsh. The most skilled cane basket makers are Eva Wolfe, Rowena Bradley and Edmond Youngbird. Oak splint baskets are made by Elsie Welsh Watty, Amanda Smoke and Agnes Welsh. Oak rib basketry is the specialty of eighty year old Julia Taylor and her daughters Dollie Taylor and Sallie Taylor Wade and granddaughter, Mary Ann Ball. Sally Locust, Joyce Taylor, Nancy Conseen and Geneava Tooni are expert weavers of honeysuckle wicker.

Increased production a marked improvement in quality and the re-learning ofthe almost forgotten double-weaving by Eva Wolfe have been positive responses by basketmakers to market demands. Through the years there have been changes in popular shapes and favored materials, an increase in exoticforms, and in the number of styles with handles. The most recent innovation has been the substitution of maple for oak in many of the simpler plaited styles. Maple has a glossy sheen which has been found to have a greaterappeal to the purchaser of baskets at Qualla.

In Oklahoma, where no stable market for baskets developed, there was a brief florescence of the craft in the 1930s and the 1940s followed by a rapid decline. Today there are few well-known weavers and most baskets are made on commission or occasionally for small local outlets. Oklahoma Cherokee basketmakers, particularly Joyce Johnson, Ella Mae Blackbear, Mavis Doering,Thelma Forrest, Shirley Gewein and several living in the Tahlequah area are making some effort toward revitalizing the craft in the state. Quality and production are improving although several weavers work extensively with commercially purchased materials.

Eva Wolfe, an Eastern Cherokee, specializes in cane double-weaving and is one of the most widely known basketweavers in the United States.

source: Basketry of Southeastern Indians by Marshall Gettys, Editor