Sunday, July 22, 2012

Adding Color / Adding Sticks

Today I started adding color to my basket cap!  This is exciting because it’s the beginning of my design.  Overlay material is used to add color and create our endless opportunities for making beautiful basket designs. Today I worked with bear grass (panyúrar).

It is gathered mid-summer high in the mountains.  Only the center shoots of the plant are gathered, because they are the most pliable.  It’s best to gather in an area that’s been burned the year before, as these new plants will have the best quality. The shoots are green when first picked, but when dried in the sun they turn a creamy white. Bear grass also has razor sharp edges capable of giving “paper cuts.”  Ouch!  I am now working with bear grass that I gathered in previous years, because we are not going to be able to gather any this year as there are no burned areas.  The availability of quality basket materials is always an issue for weavers.  Some years, materials are not available so it’s always good to get extra when we go out gathering.

I added lots of sticks today, which is very slow going.  The sticks must be added consistently and evenly, which keep the weaving stitches uniform and tight. Uniformity in materials prevents the basket from becoming lumpy. Verna reminded me not to sort as I weave, but to have my materials sorted by size before I start weaving.  Ahh… teacher’s wisdom.

Next, I’ll start adding red woodwardia fern (tíiptiip) into my overlay design.

Due to summer time activities, I’ll not be updating this blog until the end of August.

Súva_nik (see you later)

Lots of new sticks added today.

The spruce root is woven between the sticks and the bear grass
overlays the root.

A small bundle of bear grass.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Processing Black Fern

The stalk of the black fern has a black side and a red side when it’s gathered mid-summer.  I use the handle of a spoon to run down the stalk, applying enough pressure to split the two sides. 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 shiny black in our baskets.

Scraping the pulp from the stem

The black filaments ready for weaving

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gathering Black Fern

Today I met my teacher and several other weavers at 9:00 in the morning at our designated meeting place along the Klamath River.  From there, we caravanned about an hour’s drive into the mountains. We went to a spot my teacher’s teacher first took her to gather black or five finger fern (ikritápkir). The terrain is very steep -- so steep, we needed a rope tied to a tree to help us shimmy down the top section of the slope and help us climb back out.   There is a beautiful waterfall streaming down a rock wall into a pond and then on down the mountainside.  Ferns love moisture.  Tall black fern and wild orange lilies cover the whole hillside.  We all felt we were in heaven, a Karuk basketweavers paradise. This is a place that basketweavers have been sharing with their students and other weavers for generations. I could almost feel the happiness of the weavers that have passed on, glad that there are still weavers gathering at this beautiful site, respecting it, taking care of it, and continuing our basketweaving traditions.

At the right time in the summer the stalks of the fern turn from solid red to half red, and half black.  That’s the time to gather, as we use the black half of the stem for overlay material in our basketry design. It is a beautiful shiny black, but very difficult to work with.  We only gather a few stalks from each plant and then move on, never cutting too many in one spot.  As we gather, we cut the upper fronds off and leave them on the ground, so the spores can reseed. In a later blog, I will describe the process of spitting the stalk, saving the black side and discarding the red side.

This week I will be spending my time processing the black fern and next week I will be back to weaving on my cap.

"Fern grotto"

Black fern hillside.

Beautiful, tall black fern.

Complete fern stalks after picking.

Fern stocks with the fronds cut off.

This is my pick from two hours of gathering.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Starting a Karuk Ceremonial Cap

Not knowing exactly what size or type of sticks, willow (pâarak) or hazel (sárip), I would need to start my cap, I loaded my car with way more weaving materials than necessary to make the drive down the Klamath River to meet my teacher.  First order of business was to identify size of stick in diameter for the cap. Next to sort the sticks so I have all identically sized sticks.  I will need hundreds of the same size stick to complete my cap.  If the sticks are not exactly the same diameter, a lumpy bumpy basket will be the end result.  The foundation and consistency of materials is of utmost importance.  I chose willow sticks for this cap, as generally willow is straighter.  My root for binding or twining the sticks together is spruce.  Willow root could also be used, but I have more spruce than willow root at the present time.  We also spent time looking at pictures of old caps and discussing ideas for the design I will weave on my cap.  I have some great ideas brewing. 

Finally, we talked about how to size a cap to fit the person the cap is being made for.

Next week we plan to gather black fern (also called five-finger fern).   The Karuk word for black fern is ikritápkir.

The following pictures are of the start of my cap.