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’
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.