Linda Yamane's Apprenticeship Blog
On November 3rd, I visited Carol again, for our last official apprenticeship session together. Carol had been weaving up a storm and had recently finished her first complete row of feather work. She was really proud of her progress and was looking forward to showing it off. She did an excellent job! It's fantastic to see the improvement in her weaving. You may not be able to see it in the photo here, but the stitches in her most recent rows are looking very refined and even! And I know she will continue to grow in her skills, because the old saying that "practice makes perfect" has a lot of truth to it. We also discussed her plan for how she will decorate the rest of her basket. Though our apprenticeship has officially come to an end, I'm still here for questions and guidance whenever I'm needed. We'll also continue to gather sedge together from time to time. She has been very dedicated and looks forward to finishing this basket so she can make others. Congratulations, Carol!
Linda & Carol Demonstrate Ohlone Basketry at "A Gathering of Ohlone Peoples" at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont
On October 3, 2010 Apprenticeship team Linda Yamane and Carol Bachmann demonstrated Ohlone basketry for the public at "A Gathering of Ohlone Peoples" at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont, California. At this event, Ohlone people descending from different Ohlone language areas come together to share Ohlone culture with the public at a lively one-day event. Hundreds of people visited the park throughout the day to listen to storytelling, learn traditional skills, talk to Ohlone people, hear their personal stories, watch the dancers, and get the very clear message that "we are still here!"
Carol and I demonstrated the art of Ohlone basketweaving and displayed our past work, as we fielded the questions of our many visitors. And ... Carol inserted her very first feathers!
In late August, I traveled to Carol's house to see how her basket was coming along. We focused our attention on prepping the feathers for weaving and on evaluating the overall quality of her weaving. Carol was feeling really good about the improvement in her work, having realized that she hadn't been trimming her sedge properly in the past. Now her material is evenly trimmed and thin enough so the stitches lay smoothly. Great progress, Carol!
I know it's been a long time, but I'm back to catch you up on some of the things we’ve been doing since the last report. In late July, Carol and the girls came to Monterey so we could go out to Fort Ord BLM lands to gather more much-needed sedge for our baskets.
ACTA staff member, Sherwood Chen, made the long trip from San Francisco to join us for gathering of sedge roots, and I looked forward to him experiencing this beautiful oak woodland paradise. It was into the afternoon by the time everyone completed their journeys and rendezvoused at my house. We had a quick lunch, packed up the car, and headed for the backcountry. The day was clear and sunny. No fog! Hooray!
We arrived at Ishak Xuyxuyta, which means “big sedge place” in my Rumsien Ohlone language, carried out our digging tools and got right to work. The ground beneath the oaks was a bit dry, but still workable, and we spent a few hours gathering the precious sedge rhizomes used to weave our baskets.
When finished, we closed up the earth, sang our song of thanks, and posed for the next picture before carrying our buckets of tools and bags of roots back to the car. On the return trip home, through rolling, oak-studded hills, we passed other sedge beds and bracken fern, too. I vowed to come back soon to gather bracken fern rhizomes so I can extract the woody band used for basketry patterns.
We passed hundreds of manzanita bushes, recalling times we had stopped to gather the manzanita berries for making cider. But it was a bit late now, so I kept driving, that is, until I heard a shriek from the back seat. Between the screams, I heard the word "tick!” Then more screams. I quickly stopped the car, opened the door, and was just about to use a tissue to pluck the offending creature from one of the girls’ skin, when she (I won’t mention any names!) panicked and flung the tick onto the floor of my car. It took awhile for the adrenaline and screams to subside, while I spent the remainder of the ride home wondering how long it would take for the tick to find ME in the coming days. They discovered another couple of ticks before reaching my house, upon which we were treated to another round of screams.
Sherwood needed to hit the road, so we shared good-bye hugs all around and waved as he drove away. I suspect that by this time, he was ready for some much needed silence!
Carol and the girls spent the night, and the following day we focused on some weaving time together. Carol watched as I prepped my feathers for weaving and I showed her how to place the feathers in the stitches. She wasn’t ready for her feathers yet, but could start visualizing how it’s done. Arianna was our photographer, and Anissa (who had just turned 16 a couple of days earlier) was busy cuddling her new puppy “Miwok” in between trimming sedge.
On May 27 & 28 I visited Carol's house for another weaving lesson. We focused on technical details such as placement of stitches, with the goal of weaving evenly-spaced, straight stitches that will give her basket a clean, professional look. We also evaluated how Carol was prepping her sedge, which she reported was having a tendency to break when she was weaving. I recommended that she not trim it quite so thin so it will still have the strength needed for weaving her stitches without breakage.
I also needed to even out the shape of her basket start, which had become out of round since my last visit. By the time I left the following day, Carol's basket was back on track, she was busy preparing more sedge & ready to continue on her own again. This is hard & meticulous work!
Carol Bachmann cleaning sedge material for weaving. Photo by Linda Yamane.
Though Anissa & Arianna were preparing for their last day of school the following day, they brought out their baskets to work on them for awhile. Both girls were ready to begin bringing up the walls of their baskets, so we talked about what they need to do to shape their baskets. Everything they're doing is preparing them for the day they begin their first baskets with traditional Ohlone basketry materials. Good work, girls ... and have a great summer vacation!
Left: Arianna Garibay. Right: Anissa Ashcroft. Photos by Linda Yamane.
I went to Carol’s house on Friday, May 7th and stayed overnight so we could have weaving time together on both days. Our goals—to analyze even more specifically the changes Carol needs to make in order to improve the quality of her weaving so it will be smoother and have a more uniform look ... and to begin thinking about the feather work itself.
Carol Bachmann weaving. Photo by Linda Yamane
These are the things we identified:
1) When trimming sedge strands for weaving, give special attention to thickness, being sure to trim them evenly.
2) When weaving, pull stitches more tightly, holding the foundation rods down and in place beneath the new stitch.
3) When weaving, pay particular attention to the spacing of the stitches, not leaving too much distance between stitches and making sure they are uniformly spaced.
4) Don’t allow stitches to slant. Instead, add a double stitch to increase the number of stitches in the row. As much as possible, strive for stitches to be placed at a 90-degree angle from the foundation.
5) To study photos of feathered baskets to begin understanding the dynamics of feather weaving, begin thinking about what feathers she’ll use in her basket, and how she’ll pattern it.
Once our goals were identified, we sat together and worked. Carol first concentrated on preparing sedge strands for weaving, while I concentrated on weaving the sedge I had prepared earlier. From time to time, Carol handed me her sedge piece and asked if it was trimmed even enough or needed more work.
Linda Yamane's basket start and tools. Photo by Arianna Garibay
Beyond giving specific advice, the valuable thing about weaving together is being able to SEE what the other person is doing. On Saturday, when Carol began weaving and I advised her to be more aware of how and where she placed her stitches, being sure they weren’t slanting, she said she had noticed how I lay my sedge in place and hold it there as I make the hole with my awl and finish the stitch. Living far apart, and each working full time in the past, we were never able to spend much time together working on coiled basketry. Now, after all these years, Carol’s feeling excited about learning these little, but vitally important, things that will improve the overall quality of her work tremendously.
Carol's hands weaving. Photo by Linda Yamane
Before leaving home on Friday morning, I had cut willow shoots from my yard to take to Carol, because she is running very short on materials. We were so busy during the afternoon that we had forgotten about the willows, but I remembered in the evening, just about the time Carol was burning out on cleaning sedge. When I reminded her of the willows that were waiting to be peeled, she jumped enthusiastically at the change of pace and spent the next hour or two removing the bark from each stick. The result was a nice little bundle of willow sticks that will now have to dry for a few months, but will eventually become part of either this basket or another.
On Saturday morning, we got right to work. This time Carol was primarily weaving and I was both preparing sedge and weaving. She would weave a bit, then ask me to critique her stitches. Once, while she was cleaning more sedge, I decided to weave a couple of sedge strands into her basket in order to identify what was different about our weaving habits. That’s when I realized that her stitches are too loose and shift out of position because of it. It will be valuable for her to compare her stitches against mine as she continues working on the basket. It will be a measuring stick of sorts.
In the early afternoon, we shifted our attention to two binders I had brought with me that hold photos of feathered baskets I have visited and photographed at the Smithsonian, American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and on my recent trip to Europe. We looked at them, one by one, comparing and noting particular features, both similar and different. We also discussed different possibilities for her basket, and those possibilities can begin to evolve in Carol's thoughts while she’s still in the early weaving stage of her basket. Then, when the time comes, she’ll be ready to decide what she wants to do with her very own, first feathered basket!
Carol & Linda studying basket photos & feathers. Photo by Arianna Garibay
As you know, I had a very special trip planned for the month of April to study olivella shell & feathered baskets in London and Paris. On Thursday, April 8th, my husband and I flew out of San Francisco, arriving in London the following day. My appointments with The British Museum were scheduled for the following Monday and Tuesday, but it seemed prudent to visit before then to take a look at the basket of my interest, which was on public display in the gallery of the Americas.
Photos by Tim Thomas & Linda Yamane
Lighting was so dim that it was very difficult to see anything in detail, but it was nevertheless wonderful to see this basket for the first time “in person” that I had seen in photographs many years earlier.
Monday morning arrived, I excitedly reported to the appointed place to meet my gracious hosts, John “Jack” Davy and Devorah Romanek. Jack had already removed the olivella shell basket from the case, along with two other California baskets on display that the British Museum identified as “Costanoan” (Ohlone). I later had to disagree with the attribution for these two baskets, as they appeared to me to be Pomo. But I devoured every minute I had with the lovely little olivella basket. Jack had generously offered the entire day to study the basket, which I happily accepted!
During a quiet moment alone with the basket, I introduced myself to my basket-sister in my Rumsien Ohlone language, telling her of her home in California, that she had been missed all these years and I was happy to meet her.
After that, I set to the task of seeing what I could learn from her. I looked at stitches, foundation, start, rim finish, feathers, olivella beads, and more.
In the following photo, I was measuring the diameter of olivella beads, the number of stitches per inch, and number of rows per inch.
Let me share some of the things I was looking for (and things I discovered).
View of the start from the inside. Note the many split stitches, as well as the varied sedge colors.
Detail of olivella beads & Acorn Woodpecker feathers.
In the photo above, note how the color of the Acorn Woodpecker feathers has faded dramatically. It’s something I had been wondering about & was interesting to see.
Something of particular interest that I noticed about this basket is that the weaver inserted feathers in every third stitch on the base, every other stitch on the lower set of triangles and in every stitch on the upper set of triangles & all of the small rectangles. This makes a difference in the feather coverage (and therefore the visual effect of the surface). Note also that the basket is not perfectly round.
On my second day with the British Museum, it was necessary to travel by bus to their off-site storage facility. It’s here that the materials collected by Vancouver on the coast of California in the early 1790s are kept. I had requested to see a small number of pieces identified as Ohlone or possibly Ohlone by the authors of the book “Time’s Flotsam”.
Upon examining them, along with their documentation, it’s not actually possible to know exactly where the Vancouver materials were collected. In some cases, native plant materials may offer valuable clues, but for now I am content to have learned from them and defer decision on provenance to another time.
In the following photos, I would like to share with you some of the wonderful things I was able to study throughout my second day at the British Museum.
This is an ear ornament collected by Depet (sometimes spelled “Deppe”) in San Jose, California, in 1837. It was exchanged with the Berlin Museum. It consists of a woven basketry disk that was once covered with red Acorn Woodpecker feathers, with many Quail topknot feathers radiating out from behind (now mostly missing). The shaft is an incised bird bone, with dark pigment in the incisions like scrimshaw. It was worn sitting above the ear, much as one would put a pencil over one’s ear, with the basketry disk facing forward & abalone/bead dangles hanging down. See detail below.
This feather headdress (above), made of what appears to be Crow feathers, was also collected by Depet in San Jose & exchanged with the Berlin Museum at the same time as the ear ornament.
Above is a feather band made of split Brown Pelican feathers attached with cordage. Below is a net bag.
From London, we crossed the English Channel by high-speed train via the “Chunnel,” arriving in Paris on a sunny spring morning. We made the trip on Thursday, as my original appointment with the Musée du Quai Branly had been for Friday. The appointment was subsequently rescheduled for the following Monday after museum staff agreed to remove the glass and allow me to see the baskets outside the exhibit case, which could only take place on a Monday. So we had a few days to get acquainted with central Paris and learn to navigate the city’s very efficient metro system.
Museum staff had given me an appointment, and after some pleading, had agreed to remove the glass from the case. But they had also given me only one short hour to spend with their two olivella baskets! Normally, I have spent several hours with just a single basket, so I was very nervous about being as well-prepared as possible and using my time to the best end. One of my strategies was to visit the museum in advance, to see what I could learn through the glass. So one of our first items of business was to find the Quai Branly Museum, which is very near one of Paris’ most famous icons, the Eiffel Tower.
This beautifully presented museum is approximately seven years old, and showcases the ethnographic collection once housed in the Musée de l’Homme. Upon locating the California exhibit, I was relieved that I had convinced staff to allow me time with the baskets outside the glass case, because the museum lighting is outrageously dim. I was having trouble seeing the larger basket at all, because it is mounted up rather high and there were terrible reflections on the glass. But at least I got a peak at the two baskets and would have to wait just a couple more days to meet them up close and personal.
Monday morning arrived and I had set my phone alarm for 6 a.m. so I’d have plenty of time to get ready for my appointment and make the 30-minute walk from our hotel to the museum. At 6:00 my phone sounded and I assumed it was my alarm. Instead it was a phone call from American Airlines, with the unwelcome news that our Tuesday flight home had been cancelled due to the well-publicized volcanic ash cloud that had shut down most of Western Europe’s airspace in recent days.
I was numb with this news, and spent the next hour on the phone trying to schedule another flight home. The earliest flight we could get was for the following Sunday, meaning we would be spending an extra five days in Paris. How we would manage this I wasn’t sure, but I had come many thousands of miles to see these two baskets and now had to hustle to be there at the appointed time.
Correspondence with the Quai Branly Museum had been much more difficult than the British Museum and I was a little nervous about the reception I might receive. But after we arrived and began to talk, they were very warm and friendly, and seemed genuinely excited at my visit and what they would learn.
Because time would be short, I got right down to work, beginning with the basket that for many years I’ve referred to as the “Dombey basket.” Joseph Dombey was a French explorer, doctor, naturalist and archaeologist who collected the basket between the years 1778-1785 in Chile or Peru. However, the basket’s plant materials, olivella shell beads and technical features identify it as likely Ohlone, and I’ve wished for many, many years to be able to see it in person!
This basket is unique in a couple of ways, namely its shape, which is elongated rather than round, and the fact that the olivella disk beads are flipped upward rather than downward. These two facts I already knew from photos I had seen previously. What I didn’t know from those photos was whether the basket once had feathers. Close inspection revealed the remnants of red feathers, although apparently much more sparsely applied than other olivella & feathered baskets. I initially assumed that they were Acorn Woodpecker, but something was inconsistent—the base of these feathers are not dark grey like Acorn Woodpecker feathers, but rather are white! Red feathers with a white base ... in my experience, these can only be Redwing Blackbird! I was particularly excited by this because I have found a couple of ethnographic statements made by Ohlone elders who lived before my time saying that our baskets sometimes included Redwing Blackbird feathers. Yet I had never seen them in any baskets.
If you look closely, I think you’ll be able to see this in the following photo, at the rim near the center.
In my haste, having been allotted only one hour (which actually stretched out to be considerably longer!) I neglected to notice that the weaver had attached not only olivella beads but had also interspersed several white ceramic beads. These are located in the lower region of the basket, and are visible in the photo below. I was in such a hurry that I didn’t notice these on the day of my appointment, but saw them when I returned to the museum the following Friday to take one last look at the baskets in the exhibit case. Had my flight not been cancelled, I would have returned home on Tuesday and therefore not have visited the museum on Friday to notice this last little surprise!
Last, but certainly not least, I turned my attention to perhaps the most spectacular of the baskets I have had the pleasure to meet. It is quite large, heavily feathered with Acorn Woodpecker feathers and has a wonderful pattern of olivella beads. A row of clamshell disk beads encircles the rim and there are three decorative clusters of Quail topknot feathers that hang downward and apparently once also included brilliant red Acorn Woodpecker scalp feathers as well.
Here’s a close-up.
The wonderful surprise of this basket would have to be the sprinkling of olivella disk beads on the inside surface of the basket, which you should be able to see below.
My sincere thanks go out to the staff of both the British Museum in London and the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, for their warm hospitality and gift of their time. Staff in both museums took copious notes relating to native plant materials and technical observations, which will add to their accurate knowledge of these California treasures.
This was certainly a voyage of discovery, not entirely unlike those of two centuries ago, rife with adventure, but undeniably safer and easier to accomplish!
Hi! This is Linda again and this time I’d like to welcome you to beautiful Monterey County on California’s central coast.
In late March, Carol, Anissa & Arianna came to Monterey so we could gather sedge roots for our baskets. We went out into the beautiful back country of former Fort Ord on public lands that are now managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). I have a backcountry pass I must apply for each year that allows me to take a vehicle into areas that are normally closed to vehicle traffic.
Cari & Linda digging sedge. Photo by Arianna Garibay.
An Ohlone/Esselen friend, Cari, joined us for the day on her very first introduction to the activities involved with traditional basketry. We went to the largest sedge bed we’ve been tending over the past several years at Fort Ord’s BLM lands. I call it “Ishak Xuyxuyta,” the “Big Sedge Place,” because it’s the largest of the sedge beds that we have gathered from.
The reason I call it a sedge “bed” is that the sedge plants (Carex barbarae) spread and propagate themselves by means of underground stems called “rhizomes.” (Although we call them “roots,” they’re not true roots.) Every plant sends out several underground runners, and each one of these eventually sprouts a new plant at its end, thereby spreading out further and further to create an ever-growing bed of plants.
The above is true as long as enough moisture is available to keep the plants healthy. I’ve noticed that the sedges seem to grow beneath the canopies of beautiful Coast Live Oak trees. It’s my theory that the shade from the oaks, the moisture dripping from their long, green, beard-like lichens, and the oak leaves that drop to the ground and decompose into rich mulch are what create the perfect growing conditions for these sedges. Otherwise, this riparian plant would be hard-pressed to survive in the otherwise dry and sandy soil.
This is what the sedge rhizomes look like & we find them both short, mediium and long in lengh. Photos by Debbie Delatour.
For basketry, we have to dig the runners from the ground by hand and anyone who has done it knows it is no small task. You have to get down and dirty and it helps to have lots of patience. But without the plants our baskets cannot be made, and without the patience to harvest, process and prepare the plant materials you’re out of luck as well. But this is what keeps us in touch with the land and with the ways of our ancestors. This is also why we become such close friends with the plants, without whom our basketry would disappear forever. This is how we learn their ways.
So it was on to the work of the day and we got busy opening up the ground, first with the help of a large garden fork, then down on hands and knees to dig and excavate the sometimes tangled and crisscrossed “roots.”
Ari opens the ground with garden fork. • Anissa digs sedge runners with her hands. • Carol looks on, wishing she could dig like she used to before her injury & surgery. Photos by Linda Yamane.
Carol is in almost constant pain due to past surgery on her back that left nerve damage to her foot and leg. Unfortunately, this has affected nearly every aspect of her life, including the ability to gather sedge. Luckily, she has her family to gather materials for her! But at least she can be there with us, and maybe even attract a tick or two.
After two or three hours of gathering, we realized it was getting a little late so we set to the task of closing up the land and giving our thanks. I sang a “Thank You” song in my Rumsien Ohlone language, thanking the sedges and complimenting them, so that they will know we appreciate them and so they’ll continue to want to grow and be healthy, for themselves, for the land, and for the continuity of our basketry.
Linda singing "Shuururu Xuyxuyta" (Sedge Thank You Song) before leaving sedge bed at Fort Ord. Photo by Debbie Delatour.
We passed jackrabbits and cottontails on the drive home, and upon returning to my house unpacked the car and headed for the dinner table. We had worked up quite a set of appetites. But after dinner, it was time to split and peel the sedge.
Linda splits fresh sedge rhizome. Photo by Debbie Delatour.
Sedge runners have to be processed soon after harvesting, while there is still plenty of moisture in them. When freshly gathered, they split easily down the center and the bark peels readily. First, each runner is split lengthwise, being careful to keep the split moving as close to center as possible. This is hard to do in the beginning, but with experience it becomes second-nature. This was Cari’s first experience, but she did very well. Just to be sure, though, I thought it would be safer for me to split her longest ones. Why? It’s possible for a novice to reduce a lovely long sedge root into lots of useless little pieces! Carol and Anissa, who’ve both had plenty of practice, were busy splitting and peeling their nice big bundle of sedge, while Ari helped sort the roots. Because she cut her finger last time, we’ve decided it’s not quite time yet for her to use a knife! But there are always plenty of other jobs to do and she’s a great helper (as well as master tree climber!).
After splitting each sedge runner, we then remove the bark from the two resulting lengths. It seems to me that, in general, processing the sedge after gathering can take approximately the same amount of time as the gathering. Later, after the sedge has dried for about 6 months or more, we’ll need to clean and trim each piece before weaving. Then will come the weaving itself. So you can begin to get an idea of the labor intensiveness of our weaving process.
That’s about if for this entry. I’m getting ready to leave later this week for a trip to London and Paris to visit our baskets in two museums. I’ll be bringing back pictures to share, and hopefully additional knowledge learned from these baskets that left California so long ago.
On March 19 & 20, 2010 I visited Carol’s house for another weaving lesson. The weather was beautiful so this time we were happy to be able to work outside and soak up some much appreciated sun. On Friday, our Mutsun Ohlone friend Jakki was able to join us again.
I wanted us to think about our goals for this session, and we identified the following:
1. To get my guidance on cleaning her sedge
2. To get my guidance on her placement of stitches
3. To teach her how to scrape & size her willow sticks
4. To transition the foundation of her coil start from a sedge bundle to 3 willow sticks
1. To learn to trim & clean sedge in preparation for weaving
2. To learn to stitch with sedge on a commercial round reed foundation
My goal for Anissa & Arianna was to transition them to coiling with finer material, with the idea of teaching them the skills necessary for weaving with our traditional plant materials.
After working together these two days, Carol learned that she hadn’t been trimming down her sedge enough, so her stitches weren’t lying down evenly. We also worked on making sure that her stitches are evenly spaced and that she adds stitches when necessary so that her stitches don’t slant. We were both really happy with this breakthrough! It’s going to make a big difference in the quality of her weaving.
On Saturday, we also spent part of the day working on scraping down willow sticks. Because willow shoots are tapered, it’s necessary to scrape down the broader end so that the willow rods will all have a relatively uniform diameter. I showed Carol how to use the hole in a small abalone shell as a sizing gauge. She scraped and checked the diameter over and over again, working her way down the willow shoot until even the broad end could slip through the designated sizing hole.
Before finishing, I helped her insert 3 very small willow sticks as the foundation material. Because a willow stick can’t bend tight enough to begin the very center of a coiled basket, we use a small bundle of flexible sedge material in the beginning. But the time had come to transition to willow. Later, Carol will transition to larger willow foundation sticks.
Jakki spent her time learning to trim and clean sedge material to get it ready for weaving. When first learning, it’s easy to ruin the material, and this happened a few times, but it’s all part of the learning process. We all have to start from the beginning, and she did a great job. Besides trimming each strand with a knife to even out its thickness, Jakki learned to pull the strands through a small hole drilled in a piece of abalone shell to help remove the loose fibers from the surface. A lot of work and patience is required even before the weaving ever begins!
Next it was time to learn to stitch with her newly-trimmed and cleaned sedge on a commercial round “reed” foundation. I wanted Jakki to begin with this commercial foundation material because it will spare her the challenge of constantly splicing in willow sticks. She’ll have enough to manage in the beginning, just learning how to stitch properly. Later, she’ll have mastered that and can then concentrate on the additional challenge of preparing and adding willow sticks.
Because beginning a coil basket is difficult, I made a small coiled basket start at home and brought it for Jakki to begin her weaving. She was very patient and didn’t seem to mind taking out stitches from time to time in order to get it right.
On Saturday, Anissa and Arianna dedicated the day to taking their new weaving skills to the next level. As you will remember, last month they learned to weave with pine needles and raffia. This time we graduated to smaller material, both for the foundation and the stitching material. Again, I was thrilled at how quickly both of them caught on. They stitched with a needle and black twine over a commercial round wood “reed.” All the skills they’re learning are leading them to weaving with our traditional native plant materials.
Next week Carol and the girls are coming to Monterey and we’ll go out to dig sedge roots at Fort Ord BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. I’ll tell you all about it and share photos of this stunningly beautiful place in my next entry!
I went to Carol’s house in mid-February so we could work together and get Carol started on her basket. Another goal was to start teaching Carol’s great-nieces (and my great friends!), Anissa and Arianna, to weave so that we’ll have some young Ohlone weavers to carry the tradition after we’re gone.
Carol prepared some sedge roots and starting work on the beginning of her coil basket. In future entries, I’ll tell you more about the plants we use in Ohlone basketry and show you how we prepare our roots and willow sticks. But for now, let me just share some photos from our January weaving circle. Our friend Jakki Kehl, who is Mutsun Ohlone and also interested in learning to weave, came to join us for a day.
Because our basketry is very intricate and preparation of the materials is so time-consuming and requires using a knife, I thought it would be good to start the girls out weaving with pine needles and raffia, so they can learn the basics of coiled weaving without worrying about slicing their fingers! Pine needle basketry is also fairly quick, so they can make a basket in a short period of time and still get plenty of experience stitching and shaping the basket’s form. Later I'll transition them to our traditional weaving materials.
I expected Anissa, who is 15, to catch on quickly but was totally impressed when Arianna, age 10, did the same! To make it easier on the girls with their first basket, I drilled a piece of abalone for the center of each basket. This will also give their baskets a traditional touch, since abalone is important in Ohlone culture. In fact, the word abalone originated from the Monterey Rumsien Ohlone word “aulun,” which means “red abalone.” The Spanish adopted the word in the form of “aulon,” then it later evolved to “aulone” and eventually became the English word “abalone."
We were all especially proud of Anissa and Arianna’s first basket weaving experience. They both took to it so naturally that we all have high hopes for the future!
I hope you’ll enjoy this peek into our time together … we look forward to sharing our progress with you over the next months.