Friday, April 19, 2013

Exploring Northwest Native Basketry of the Past with Renowned Weavers of the Present

Example of cedar clothing at
the Syre Education Center
Once in a lifetime opportunities come along...well, only once in a lifetime.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to explore the Syre Education Center (pronounced SIGH-ree) in Bellingham, Washington with well known Haida-Tlingit basket weavers Diane Douglas-Willard (a Bellingham native), who now lives in Ketchikan, and DollyGarza of Skidegate, Haida Gwaai, British Columbia 
The Center, which is part of the Whatcom Museum, houses beautiful  historic and contemporary Northwest woodcarvings, weavings as well as basketry.   Both ladies were in town for the Weavers Teaching Weavers conference at Northwest Indian College last week, and the basketry was of particular interest to us all.  
Alaskan Native artifacts including finger masks
at the Syre Education Center

The collection contains almost perfectly preserved examples of baskets from the Yup'ik, Tlingit, Haida and Salish tribes.   Diane and Dolly were looking to the past to inspire designs for their contemporary work. I tagged along to see and learn more.
Excellent examples of
Tlingit basketry at the Syre Education Center

The Syre Education Center used to be open to the public. Because of budget cuts in recent years, the facility is now only available for school groups and by appointment for researchers.  Having the opportunity to explore the collection was a treat, and it was even more special being able to experience it with such talented, knowledgeable friends.  Here are a couple of images to give a glimpse into this fantastic collection in the City of Subdued Excitement!
[**PLEASE stay tuned for my upcoming blog on the Weavers Teaching Weavers conference that took place last week.  I will have audio interviews with some of Indian Country's finest and most famous artists, combined with images of the weavers and the event to put you right in the thick of it!]

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