The Language of Native American Baskets The Weavers' Aesthetic The Weavers' Aesthetic
Introduction The Weavers' View Techniques, Tools & Workplaces The Weavers' Aesthetic Burden Baskets A Set of Values Basketmaking Associations
Materials
Starts and Finishes
Splices and Workfaces
Shape
Materials
  “I always point out that at one time the designs were new, people had to absorb them. But because we have been doing them for so long, now they’re considered traditional.”
—Terrol Johnson, Tohono O’odham
  Design field

In theory, the entire surface of a basket can be covered with designs, but different weavers consider different areas, such as the bottom, or the rim—unsuitable for decoration. The rim or shoulder of a basket may be decorated differently from the body. A weaver may use wide spacing or small, isolated design elements to delineate a basket’s design field, or she may frame it with border bands. Designs that are used by many different tribes can often be distinguished by their placement within the design field. Two groups might use the same design, but one may orient it in a more upright way than its neighbor.

Understanding a basket’s use can often help make sense of the basket-maker’s decisions about design field. The side of a burden basket that is worn against the back, for example, often has a very different design from the side that faces out. A basket made to be worn on a belt may have a design that looks best when seen from above. During the early part of the 20th century, non-Indian buyers requested more realistic birds and other naturalistic representations on baskets. Weavers complied by reducing their use of abstract motifs and by simplifying the layout of their designs.
 
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