Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Honor the Harvest

Ash & Cherry Basket
Woven Winter 2010

Spring turns to thoughts of harvesting

Happy Spring Weavers !! I know its still wet and chilly out there ~ but spring is officially here !!
I've been really busy this winter. Had a chance to weave some "good baskets" this winter. Seems like after all these years ... about 20 of them ... I've finally beginning to weave good baskets. Practice makes perfect !!

I'm also working under a Arts Builds Communities Grant this spring. My project is with working with local youth teaching them how to build rustic furniture. I have three young men who are apprenticing with me. We've walked the forest, learned about healthy forest stewardship and have begun to harvest our saplings.

Last week they built their first benches. Wow, I'm so impressed with their patience and willingness to learn. One young man in particular has really impressed me. He is a good craftsman and has shown consistent respect and leadership. Next we are on to making willow chairs ... I'll keep you posted on their progress.

The Dogwoods have began to bloom Weavers ~ that mean's several things. The Salmon are half way home, the sap is rising in the Cedars, and the willow is ready to be picked and peeled. I'm hoping to get over the hill to the River in a couple of weeks to pick ... ummmmmm I love the smell of fresh peeled willow !!!!

I was hoping to get together with a few of you this spring to finish up winter baskets. I think we all have some weaving materials from last years harvest. Hope you all get a chance to weave or pass those materials on to others less fortunate in their opportunities to harvest.

I imagine you all noticed the new name of my Blog. This year I have decided to honor my Indigenous roots and ancestors. For those of you fortunate to belong to a recognized tribe and have your basket work honored and authenticated ~ what a blessings. For those of us out there who are far from our ancestral homes ~ I know you will understand the need to identify with ones heritage.

I gather and weave to honor my heritage. The basket work I do is Algonquin. My ancestors where the Kichesipirini Algonquin who came from a place in Quebec called L'Isle-aux-Allumettes. In the last two years I've worked hard to model my gathering, weaving and teaching in a manor that I hope brings honor to my ancestors. As always its an honor to share my knowledge and skills with any one of you who are interested.

Megwitch and to all my relations ~ peace and blessings


Monday, December 1, 2008

Harvesting White Ash for Basketry

All our Baskets begin their life in the living trees of Oregon White Ash. (Fraxinus latifolia) or Oregon White Ash, grows in abundance in the nearby forests and low woodlands of our northwest community. Not every tree is suitable for making baskets. In fact sometimes only one tree out of a hundred will make a good basket tree. The trees that grow higher in the forest we harvest in the summer months, and the one's that are down low near our home we harvest in the fall. One tree will make approximately 10 good baskets, with the core of the tree set aside for making basket handles.

When harvesting Ash for basketry we honor our Indigenous Traditions. We spend a long time "visiting" with the trees before we cut and take only what we can process that season. We are thankful for the weaving materials that will come, and honor the chosen tree by leaving a gift of tobacco, a feather, coin, or sage before we leave the forest. Oregon Ash regenerate itself, which means that new trees will grow back from the place we cut ~ just like Alder or Big Leaf Maple.

Only about 6 feet of the tree trunk will be used for making baskets. This trunk will be stripped of its outer bark, down to the smooth buckskin of the tree. We soak our tree in an old bathtub for a least a week or two before we began to harvest the splints. Then the real work begins. Each log/trunk is pounded repeatedly to loosen the growth rings. I tell my students to imagine bubble wrap between each growth ring, and when they pound the tree log ~ the bubble wrap pops. We take 1 to 2 inch wide strips of each growth ring and then pound again until we get the log down to about 4 inch in diameter. We save that for making handles.

I bundle up the splints and let them dry. We call these billets. Later when I am ready to make baskets, I will soak the billets in warm water, and separate them in half. When you are done you will have double the amount of splints, each with a smooth shiny side and a rough fuzzy side that we scrape clean with a knife. Then you roll up all the clean separated splints to save for later or you get ready to size and cut them now for weaving.


Greetings from Oregon, and Welcome to the Métis Basket Weaver's Blog.

My name is Nan MacDonald, and I am a Native American Basket Weaver. Weaving & Teaching Traditional White Ash Basketry is my speciality.

My Native heritage is Algonquin/Métis, with both my mom and dad tracing their roots back to French & Indian people of Quebec & Louisiana.

Our people were Voyagers, Trappers, Canoers and Basket Makers. Métis means mixed blood, and I'm proud to honor both my French and Indian ancestry, by continuing the tradition of weaving and teaching traditional White Ash Basketry today.

All Basket Weavers are welcome here, and those who just want to learn too. I make my home in Oregon now, and would love to hear from other Métis, especially those who are interested in Algonquin/Métis culture, Northeast Indigenous traditions, and Indian basket weaving.

It has been my honor to learn from the following teachers; Karuk weaver Verna Reece, California, Quinault weaver Harvest Moon, Washington, Abenaki weaver Jesse Larocque, Vermont, and the Abenaki weaving family of Francois McAdams, Oregon(Originally from Odanack, PQ.)

I also weave & teach traditional Northwest Coast Native Basketry. Currently, I am teaching at the University of Oregon's Crafts Center, the Eugene Wetlands Center, and the South Slough Reserve in Charleston, Oregon. You can find a link to these wonderful sites in this Blog.