William Harrison's Apprenticeship Blog

Still Weaving

I have one last post for the ACTA blog. I have continued to weave since the Master-Apprentice program with ACTA. A few weeks ago I collected willow and began my third basket. (Please see the photo of the willow and new start.) I will make another large burden or cone shaped basket with a striped pattern of willow, skin on and off. I have also included a photo of my great-great grandmother’s (Rosa Shipes) acorn design tray which is housed at UC Berkeley. I am incredibly proud of my Maidu family from Plumas County and the legacy of many skilled weavers which I am part. In addition to the valuable time spent learning to gather and weave though the project, I have been given an opportunity to serve the California Indian Basket Weavers Association (CIBA) which works for current and future weavers throughout California. This year, the organization will hold their annual gathering June 22, 23, & 24 at the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indian Reservation.  If you are interested in attending the gathering or California Indian basketry, please visit their website for more information: www.ciba.org. I hope more Master-Apprentice teams will consider partnering with ACTA in the future and I thank them once again for the opportunity.

Mountain Maidu Basketry

I am excited to share I have completed my second basket! A bowl made of willow and red bud, please see pictures. This will be my final entry for the ACTA apprenticeship blog. Ennis and I have really enjoyed our time working together for the duration of a little over a year. I have learned a lot about basketry and our Maidu heritage. One important lesson I learned was basketry takes time and a lot of patience. Let me emphasize a lot of time and patience! Sometimes, I would get frustrated and find myself "cussing and weaving" as we jokingly referred to it. But I also found immense joy and satisfaction in the entire process, from gathering to giving the basket away. Before beginning my apprenticeship, I totally underestimated the time, dedication, and patience involved. I have a new appreciation and respect for the process in the creation of a basket. I understand more why basket weaving is becoming more rare as the fast paced technology driven world we live in does not foster a healthy environment for weaving, and more importantly new weavers. Ennis and I would like to thank ACTA for providing us with this important opportunity.

Continuing the Tradition

Hello to everyone! I am giving an update on my progress in basket making. I finished my first burden basket (see picture) this past June 2011. I am beginning the process for my next basket which will be a smaller bowl. For this basket, I am going to focus on preparing of materials before weaving and a more uniform selection of willow used. My first basket ended up taking me nearly 6 months to complete. This involved learning to gather, preparing, starting, weaving, adding, and finally completing the basket. I expect my second basket will be completed at a much quicker pace. My favorite experience thus far in basket making is spending time with Ennis and his sister Carol. I also enjoyed giving my first basket to a friend and seeing how happy it made them to receive it.

Mountain Maidu Basketry: Finishing My Burden Basket

I am happy we are finally having some sunny weather. Week after week of heavy rain and/or snow in the mountains slowed my ability to spend needed time with Ennis. After learning to start a basket, I was needing to learn how to add sticks to continue weaving. Again, it seemed I would never learn this as Ennis demonstrated this over and over. Each time I was left on my own...I was left confused and frustrated. I became more frustrated as each time I tried to plan a trip to Greenville, the next storm would arrive and nothing was getting done. We finally were able to meet up for a few hours on a rainy day in Oroville. I also watched another weaver add sticks thier way which was slightly different then our technique. Finally, it made sense and I was able to add sticks being able to add about 3-4 inches to my basket. Another issue I faced was my willow was dry and even though  I soaked it well, the sticks were snapping and not easy to work with. I gave some of the willow away and set out to gather more. As time had passed for gathering willow in the valley, I travelled to the high country to gather where winter was just now retreating. I now have a nice supply of good winter willow and plan on finishing my basket this coming weekend. Ennis and I will be demonstrating basketry at the Maidu Museum spring "Yomen" celebration this Sunday April 17 in Roseville. I will post a picture of my first finished basket on my blog very soon! I hope to make one more winter basket and begin peeling my next harvest for a spring basket in the near future. Until then...Yahat Bis Pa Da...Go well until we meet again.

Mountain Maidu basketry

Hesasa’kade/Hello Everyone

My name is William Harrison, I am Mountain Maidu and an apprentice under master Mountain Maidu basket weaver Ennis Peck. We are both very excited to be participating in the apprenticeship program. I am new to the art of basketry and over the next year I am learning to weave willow baskets. We started our work together this past January 2011. My first task was to learn how, where, and what to gather. We chose a location and I was instructed to gather as much as possible as Ennis would be arriving an hour or two after me. I had collected maple and willow for other traditional projects, but never willow for baskets which made me a little nervous. I tried my best and picked what I thought would work, but as it turned out my harvest was better suited to make handgame sticks.I set it aside and Ennis showed me a few examples of what to look for. I collected enough to begin and start a basket. I watched Ennis begin a basket and then tried myself, it was not easy as Ennis made it look. For around an hour I struggled to thoroughly understand and start the basket myself. I begin to worry to myself that I was not going to be successful. At last something clicked and I got it! I then practiced over and over as Ennis instructed me to start over each time I finished. I had a great feeling of accomplishment and relief that I had taken my first step! This week I have ventured out to collect more willow on my own and will be traveling to Greenville to spend the weekend with Ennis to learn the next step of “adding sticks.” I look forward to sharing my future adventures and learning with you through the ACTA blog. And for those of you who were concerned with my picture…don’t worry I was not weaving and driving!


About this Blog

Mountain Maidu basketweaver William Harrison of Woodland, California, was an apprentice in ACTA's Apprenticeship Program in 2011 with master artist Ennis Peck.

This blog follows the course of William's apprenticeship with Ennis, as they built upon William’s knowledge of traditional Maidu regalia, singing, and other ceremonial practice. Their work together focused on harvesting and preparing raw materials for the construction of a large close-weaved storage basket.

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