IACA Journal, Summer 2014 - page 11

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baskets with elaborate curlwork. Three
forms of curls were commonly used and
continue to be used in Maine Indian bas-
ketry: curlys or loops; porcupine curls-a
sharp pointed curl; and diamond weave
or warts. Fancy baskets also incorporat-
ed sweetgrass, woven in loose a couple
strands at a time or braided into a thin
three-strand braid. The sweetgrass gave
a wonderful smell to the baskets. Finally
basketmakers began to use commercial
aniline dyes to color their splints in
pinks, bright blues, reds, and olive green
colors.
The production of baskets increased
markedly as Maine became a popular
summer destination for tourists, who
came to enjoy the state’s pristine lakes
and coast. Maine Indian families sold a
variety of novelty goods, such as birch-
bark crafts, decorated paddles, toy bows
and arrows, rootclubs, and baskets. Pop-
ular summer locations to gather included
Bar Harbor, Poland Springs, Pemaquid
Point, Kennebunkport, Rye Beach, the
White Mountains of New Hampshire as
well as Boston, Philadelphia, and New
York. Typically Maine Indian basket-
makers used the profits of the summer
season to put food on the table and
to purchase other necessities. Nearly
everyone in their communities was
involved in some aspect of this ancient
tradition from gathering brown ash and
sweetgrass, pounding ash, and braiding
sweetgrass, to making baskets.
From 1900 to 1930, distinctive forms
were woven for sewing notions, such as
scissor holders, needle cases, and button,
pin, and thimble baskets. In addition to
covered sewing flats, larger open sewing
baskets continued to be produced. Other
common forms included knitting and
tatting forms, including some in the
shape of acorns and strawberries, napkin
rings, calling card holders, trays for tea
sandwiches, trinket boxes, stationary
boxes, collar baskets and handkerchief
baskets. Whimsical or novelty forms,
such as kettles, tea pots, tea cups, and
pitchers as well as hanging flower vases
also date to this era.
Above: Barrel Block for making
baskets like the one shown at
right. This mold is construct-
ed in pieces so that it can be
removed from the basket before
the rim is finished.
Right: Barrel Wastebasket
c. 1970.
Above right: Penobscot Splint
Gauge c. 1900. Right: Basket
start on button basket block by
Jennifer Sapiel Neptune c. 1995.
Below: Band Basket c. 1860
with wide splints which were
swabbed with cadmium yellow,
iron oxide and indigo pigments.
Unlike their dainty counterparts, work
baskets are more difficult to date, as they
did not vary greatly in form over time.
Passamaquoddy basketmakers in Wash-
ington County Maine made a distinctive
work basket, fish scale baskets, for the
fish processing industry. In Aroostook
County, the Micmac and Maliseet made
potato baskets for use in the fields from
the early 1900s to the 1970s.
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