Wooden Handle Indian Basket Splint Dyed Curls

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Item number: PYH 5493

A beautiful, large black ash splint basket with natural and dyed pink curls, this was found in Michigan but had traveled over from the Maine/Quebec area. The Wabenaki tribes there, such as the Passamaquoddy, have revived traditional basket-weaving, forming the Maine Basketmakers Alliance in 1993 to preserve and teach basket weaving. This basket is possibly one made by one of the members of the Alliance.

The splints used to weave this basket are hand cut of varying widths, rather than machine made in uniform widths. None of the splints have the "hairy" look that machine made splints do, where the wood fibers are not smooth, but stand up away from the splint. The rim on this basket is wood, wrapped with narrow splint rather than nailed or stapled. The hand-carved wood handle with its center notch is attached to the basket by piercing the rim, its long arrow-shaped tongue flat against the inside of the basket.

The fancy-work curls are splints that are bent back 90 degrees. The sets of four curls alternate in color and form flower designs. One of the natural curls has a chipped edge and one of the pink curls is missing (we've shown these; both are in the same photo).

The basket is slightly out of round, measuring 15 inches across the top in one direction and 14 inches the other way. The interior of the basket is 7 3/4 inches deep and the overall height is 14 inches with the handle. The basket weighs 1 pound 3 ounces and other than the damage to the curls mentioned above, it's in excellent condition and is a wonderfully decorative and useful basket.

>> Black ash (or brown as it's known in Maine) is unique in that "once its bark is removed, the tree can be pounded along its length until the growth rings separate, producing perfect ash splints that can then be planed and split and resplit, producing pliable yet durable weaving material as wide as a man’s belt or as fine as dental floss. " (Quoted from: "Rising From the Ashes" Northern Woodlands Magazine, December 5, 2014).

PYH 5493

This handsome single-weave Cherokee basket was twill plaited of white oak splints circa 1960's. It's called a market basket; its uses included storing grain, catching fish and carrying food. Over the last century, weaving patterns have been named for the weave itself such as “over-two, under-two," which is the pattern used for this basket.

Cherokee dyes are natural, sourced from roots, bark, and leaves and controlled by the amount of time the splints spend in boiling water. The natural dyes tend to be fugitive, often fading faster than commercial dyes. The color of the oak splints has darkened over time, except for the dyed green weavers, which have faded on the outside but are more vivid on the inside of the basket. The colored splints form a large open "X" on each side of the basket, a large diamond on each end with smaller diamonds surrounding them. The diamonds pattern is a Cherokee favorite to use for twill plaiting.

Inner sides of the D-shaped splint handle are notched just below the hoop rim to provide extra support. The rim is vertically wrapped with strips of hickory bark. The top is oval, measuring 12 1/2 inches long by 8 1/4 inches wide. The bottom is rectangular, 11 inches long by 7 inches wide. The basket is 8 inches tall; it measures 13 inches tall to the top of the handle. It weighs 3/4 of a pound and has the original price of $1.35 penciled on a bottom splint.

Cherokee baskets are very sturdy; this one appears almost unused, with no breaks, missing pieces or visible wear. Made by a talented woman basket maker in North Carolina, the basket displays beautifully and will become a family heirloom.

PYH 5509