spruce root woven basket
4 x 5 1/2 x 5 1/4 in, 10.2 x 14 x 13.3 cm
Available for post auction sale. CAD
Preview at: Heffel Montreal
Douglas Reynolds Gallery, Vancouver
Acquired from the above by the present Private Estate, Montreal
The Tlingit peoples lived mainly in southwest Alaska, in the northern Pacific coast from Mount St. Elias to the Nass River, including Sitka and other adjacent islands of the Alexander Archipelago. There is also a Tlingit subgroup in the area from Whitehorse, Yukon, south through British Columbia to the Atlin area, and down to the Taku and Stikine Rivers.
Baskets were created for the carrying and storage of food and cooking, and they used grasses, spruce roots and cedar bark to make them. Pottery was a craft unknown to the Northwest tribes. In the spring and fall, young roots of the Sitka Spruce were gathered. The bark was peeled from the roots and cured over the summer, then it was ready to be split and woven. Tlingit baskets were fine examples of two-strand twining technique. Some baskets were for collecting roots and clams, coarsely woven to allow for drainage. Others were finely woven for containing water and for cooking – they used hot rocks dropped into the water to cook their food. They also made storage baskets in which the lid was a separate compartment, filled with objects such as puffin bird beaks, shells or pebbles, which rattled. Baskets such as these were prized trade items.
The designs on the outside of the baskets were made by wrapping material such as dyed grasses around the weft. Dyes were made from such sources as huckleberry, sulphuric mud, moss, hemlock bark and alder bark. As early as 1890, commercial aniline dyes began to be used, as the Tlingit people started to sell their baskets to the tourist trade. The patterns on the baskets included abstract designs from nature, animals, landscape elements and motifs of their culture such as tattoos and labrets. As the Tlingit came into contact with Europeans, they began to use symbols such as the Christian cross and patterns on Hudson Bay blankets.
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