Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gathering and Preparing Black Fern

With the twining technique of basketry that we use on the Klamath River, we make great use of overlay materials to produce intricate patterns.  Three of these materials are bear grass (which I talked about in my previous post), black fern, and woodwardia fern (which I’ll cover in a later posting).

Here’s a picture of the ceremonial cap I made this year, which shows all three materials.

The stalk of the black fern (ikritápkir in Karuk).  has a black side and a red side when it’s gathered.  I use the handle of a pocket knife to run down the stalk, applying enough pressure to split the stem. The red side is discarded and the black side is scraped with a knife to remove the green pulp. These strips of black fern are dried and stored, ready to be soaked and used as an overlay material creating the beautiful (and somewhat delicate) shiny black in our baskets.

… and here’s a close-up picture of a black fern stalk in the process of being split.

Click on this YouTube link to view our trip to gather black fern.  It takes just over eight minutes.


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Friday, July 19, 2013

Gathering and Processing Bear Grass

The third week in June my husband and I took off on a week-long camping trip to look for and gather bear grass and black fern.  We had heard of an area of bear grass that had burned in a forest fire last year, so we decided to check it out.  Bear grass is best for weaving if it has burned the year prior, making the grass soft and pliable.  Only the center shoots are gathered.
This year since we were camping / traveling for a week, the bear grass laid on the dash of our truck to begin its initial drying.  Everyday, I would lay it out in the sun for an hour or two when we were in our camp site.  Once we got home I laid it out on a tarp for a few hours each day in the morning sun, before it got too hot. The goal is for the grass to turn from green to a nice creamy white.
Like some other weaving materials, once bear grass has dried, it can remain usable for some years.  Simply soak it well in water before using.
Next year we will be looking for another burned area.
This YouTube video takes 5 minutes.

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This blog is to document one full year of gathering and processing my Karuk basket weaving materials. My intention is to educate and raise awareness as to the time and energy basketweavers spend collecting and preparing their materials before a basket can even be started. Often people will ask me, “How long did it take to make that basket?” Or, “Can’t you buy your materials in the store?”  Or, “Why do basket’s cost so much?” 
My weaving materials cannot be purchased in a store; they are all gathered in the wild, sometimes a hundred or more miles from my home.  Easily 50 percent of my time making baskets is spent in the gathering and preparation of my materials.
In this blog I will be sharing what I’ve learned from those who have taught me, and discovered myself through trial and error.  Gathering and weaving is an on-going learning process.  I am not professing to be the expert, but only sharing my own experiences.
Finally, I give great respect, gratitude and care to the plants and places where I gather my materials. Prayers are always given in thanks, which I feel is important. This is a personal and private time for me and will not be shown in my blog.
To create this blog, I appreciate very much the financial help given to me through the 2013 National Native Creative Development Program, coordinated by the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington.
Funding has also been made possible by the Puffin Foundation.
Yootva (Thank you)