The Language of Native American Baskets The Weaver's View The Weaver's View
Introduction The Weavers' View Techniques, Tools & Workplaces The Weavers' Aesthetic Burden Baskets A Set of Values Basketmaking Associations
Lisa Telford
Pat Courtney Gold
Julia Parker & Sherrie Smith-Ferri
Terrol Johnson
Theresa Hoffman
  “When I was young,
I was obsessed with math and divisions.
I saw one of my grandmother’s old baskets and I sat down and counted every stitch…. At first my basketry had to be perfect, and then I let it all go and that’s when I found true joy.”
—Lisa Telford, Haida
  Lisa Telford

In spring 2003, the Museum invited Lisa Telford and four other Native basket-makers and one Native basketry scholar to a two-day seminar to review this exhibition in its early stages. All of them expressed their strong wish to present basketry as a living art, with strong links to cultural history. To help illustrate this continuity, Ms. Telford chose these four baskets from the Museum’s collections and paired them with baskets from her own and other Northwest Coast basket-makers’ contemporary works.

Lisa Telford was born in Ketchikan, Alaska, and now lives in Everett, Washington. She learned basketweaving from her aunt, the well-known Haida basket-maker Delores Churchill. Lisa, who makes yellow and red cedar-bark baskets and cedar-bark clothing, has participated in a number of exhibitions in Washington, Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Alaska, and has received numerous honors and awards, including serving as an artist-in-residence at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis and the National Museum of the American Indian. Achievements aside, she compares making baskets to therapy, saying it helps her relax from the stresses of life.


The Weaver’s View

You can’t get over how exquisite these baskets are. To be able to touch something that’s so very beautiful, so fine, that someone made 100 years ago—knowing they just made and sold them for nothing—is the experience of a lifetime.

When I was 13 years old, my grandmother wanted to teach me how to weave. Haidas never said, “I want to teach you how to weave.” They said, “Come here, I want to show you something.” But I was 13, and when you’re 13 you don’t have time to do that kind of thing. I’ve remembered that moment for the rest of my life. My grandmother passed away in 1982, and she always wanted to show me and I missed the opportunity.
Instead, a few years later I got hooked up with my aunt, who came and gave me my first lesson and some scraps of bark. From that I made a sorrowful hat and was very proud of it. I moved on from there and made a little basket and just worked on my own.

There are 20 Haida speakers remaining in the world today, and my mother is one of them. She’s teaching my granddaughter to speak Haida, and now is the time. My granddaughter can sing Haida songs, and she’s learning how to do basketry. The only thing she doesn’t know how to do is start a basket. She’ll ask, “Can I weave on your basket?” And I’ll say, “No, start your own.” She’ll say, “I can’t.” So I’ll start it for her. The next step for her is to start one on her own.
 
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