“If you aren’t in the mood, don’t weave. It shows up in the work.” That’s one of the many things Quileute tribal member Cathy Salazar has learned after 16 years of basket weaving.
“The weave will get too tight or sloppy if you aren’t in the right frame of mind,” she said.
Despite years of weaving, Salazar didn’t fully appreciate the traditional ways of preparing materials for some time because others provided the cedar and grasses ready to use in baskets.
“It was all ready to go and Grandma Lillian Pullen or my other instructors would weave the basket bottoms for me to get the basket started,” Salazar said. Pullen was her first teacher and everyone called her “Grandma.”
However, there came a time when the raw materials weren’t as easily available, so Salazar went out with a group of tribal members to strip cedar bark and learned about the hard work required to prepare the bark for weaving.
“When people look at a basket and grumble about the price, they usually don’t understand that the weaving is the fastest part for accomplished basket-makers,” Salazar said. “The preparation takes the most time.”
Once the cedar bark is stripped from the tree, the outer bark must be separated from the inner bark. Then it is dried indoors to prevent mold. It is either stored or soaked in water if it will be used in the near future.
Salazar chuckles that her sister Anne Walker, who lives in Arizona, can have cedar harvested in May ready to use by July because of Arizona’s hot and dry climate. In the rainforest, “I’m probably not able to use it until November,” she said.
Properly preserved, the weaving materials can be stored for many years.
“Some weavers have cedar that was their grandmother’s that they use in baskets,” Salazar said. “When folks are looking at baskets, they always comment they can smell the cedar when they are holding those old-growth baskets. The color is darker, too.”
Quileute Natural Resources now organizes cedar bark gathering each year as part of a cooperative agreement with the timber company Rayonier. Natural resources employees mark the way to
the grove and provide transportation if necessary. Cedar is collected and distributed to those who aren’t able to gather it themselves.
“I think we had the most requests that I can remember for materials this year,” Salazar said.
Salazar knows the value of the materials and gives prepared cedar to relatives and friends as presents for birthdays and other holidays.
“They appreciate it because they know how much work it takes to get it ready. For me, I would trade it ounce for ounce for gold.”
This article is reprinted with permission from NWIFC News, a quarterly magazine from the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. Free subscriptions are available by request from the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, 6730 Martin Way E., Olympia, WA 98516, (360) 438-1180
The magazine is also online at nwifc.org. The Summer 2013 issue is available at http://nwifc.org/w/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/07/2013_2_summer_magazine.pdf.pdf
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