Intertwining Tradition


Making the ancient art look timeless

Stephen Zeh

On studying the craft: “I learned the weaving and construction of baskets in much the same way that I learned to lace the rawhide in snowshoes—by dissecting many an old basket.”

On influence: “Edward Newell, a Penobscot basketmaker, was an early influence on my work. I learned a lot from him about picking out the right trees, preparing the splint from the tree, making tools, and designing baskets.”

On an accidental reputation: “One summer I made a set of garden baskets for my wife, Tammy. She used the baskets all the time and thought other people would like them as much as she did. She started taking them out to the nearby town of Farmington and set up a display on the corner by the bank. She did this every Friday afternoon, and became known as The Basket lady.”

On the details: “I often leave parts of my baskets rough hewn right from the drawknife, while other parts have a smooth hand-scraped finish. This sets up a contrast between the tool marks on the rims and the smooth finish of the weaving and handles. I enjoy the interplay of strength and beauty that results from working with both quick, clean strokes, and careful attention to detail.”

For more Zeh
: “Pieces are available by custom order. A portfolio is available by calling or writing. My studio is open by appointment only.”

Ganessa Bryant

On a sense of place: “I was born here in Maine, grew up on Indian Island, and now reside on the Passamaquoddy Indian Township Reservation. I come from a family of artists and learned basket weaving from Jeremy Frey four years ago.”

On tradition: “My ancestors are the central influence in my basketmaking. I wanted to learn the art because it has been handed down for many generations. I feel as though it is a rite of passage in some way, and it was time for me to continue that knowledge as my mother and her mother had before me.”

On old and new: “My work tries to blend older designs with a more contemporary feel. I like to keep the traditional essence of the basket, but add new twists that make it my own—like bold colors, or even the way I make my points.”

For more Bryant: “My work can be seen at the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, the Abbe Museum, Island Artisans, and American Native Arts and Antiques.”


David Moses Bridges

On family: “I am Passamaquoddy and self-taught as a basketmaker. My education began with my family and my community at Sipayik and around the forests of Maine. As a child, I was always fascinated at how my elders could transform a log into a basket. Watching my grandmother Beatrice Soctomah comb and braid her sweetgrass into such strong and fragrant strands showed me the beauty this earth is capable of providing.”

On the materials: “When I began basketmaking I learned the attributes and limitations of the materials I was working with: bark, cedar, and roots. The most important lesson was to understand the forest environment I was working in—over every hill is a different micro environment and the quality of the bark I gather can be determined by the forest type I’m standing in.”

On tradition and evolution: “Though still deeply rooted in tradition, while collaborating with contemporary artists I have bent bark in ways my ancestors would not have. This work, however, does not define my style, but is only a creative outlet.”

For more Bridges: “My work can be seen in the Abbe Museum, the Hudson Museum, The Downeast Heritage Center, and is available at the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance store and the Abbe Museum gift shop.”

Lissa Huntercraft_hunter.jpg

On Maine and art: “I wanted to make art as a full-time profession, not as a part-time addition to teaching and was enchanted by the southern coastal area. I moved from Pennsylvania to South Berwick in 1979, and then to Portland in 1984.”

On influence
: “Certainly traditional basket- makers from many traditions have taught and inspired me, but also painters such as Matisse, Cézanne, Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly. And nature, always nature.”

On exploration: “I began making individual, freestanding coiled baskets and framed paper collages in 1980. After fourteen or fifteen years, I felt as if I had made every possible form of coiled basket possible and started creating boxes and shelves to become “environments” for the baskets. It has allowed me to explore different ideas and ways of working.”

For more Hunter
: “From time to time, I have work with June Fitzpatrick Gallery in Portland. I also show in several galleries around the country, and have a website.”

Jeremy Frey

On generations: “I was born and raised in Maine, and have lived in Princeton for over 20 years. Basketmaking has been in my family for many generations. I learned the art from my mother, Frances Frey.”

On evolution
: “I have a desire to constantly improve my own work. My baskets are based on the traditional Passamaquoddy styles, but I have also gone away from straight traditional baskets and toward a more refined vision.”

For more Frey
: “My work can be seen at the Abbe Museum, Island Artisans, and American Native Arts and Antiques, among others.”

Pam outdusis Cunningham

On the road to baskets: “I grew up on Oak Hill, Indian Island. My background is in health care but when my first son was born I wanted to be a stay at home mom. Basketmaking has allowed me to do that. I’ve been making baskets since 1994. In 1999 I became a master weaver.”

On preservation: “The work of elder Wabanaki basketmakers has had a great influence on me and my basketmaking. These baskets symbolize my desire to keep native traditions and culture alive.”

On baskets and the body: “I first used basketmaking as a way to learn the health of the Penobscot Elders. As a community health nurse aide I found a lot of the elders didn’t want to tell me about their health. But, by sitting and watching them make baskets,s it became easier for them to tell me about their health.”

For more Cunningham: “My work can be seen at the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance Gallery, the Hudson Museum, the Abbe Museum, Island Artisans, Home and Away Gallery, and American Native Arts and Antiques.”

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