Posted 4 years ago
I just got this today, it is a basket made completely of Whale Baleen, except for the bottom center which is carved from Walrus Tusk. It is about 5 inches in diameter and about 2 1/2 inches in height. Baleen basketry, made from the fibrous "strainers" in the mouth of plankton-eating whales, is a relatively recent phenomena and represents a response to tourism to Alaska that began in the first quarter of the 1900s. While there are well-documented makers of baleen baskets prior to WW II, the real growth spurt in weaving took place in the post-WW II era. Most baleen basketry weavers are associated with three primary Inupiat centers: Barrow, Point Hope, and Wainwright. This particular basket probably dates to the 1950s and uses the spaced stitch method of weaving. Baleen baskets are produced in very limited quantities each year due to the specialized skill and labor required for their creation, and because baleen is a highly restricted commodity. The baleen is obtained through limited subsistence whale hunts conducted each year. Only certain Alaskan natives are allowed to hunt Whales, and they must have certification to do so. The natives hunt for food and every part of the whale is used and only Alaskan Native people may use this material. Nothing is wasted, and the natives who can still weave these baskets do so for much needed income. I have wanted to have one for my collection for many years but due to the high prices garnered for one of these beautiful works of art I was unable to until now. I found this one online, it's lid had been very damaged and was not with the bottom, or it was lost so I was able to afford it. The center is made of ivory from Walrus Tusk, then holes are drilled around the outside of it so that the Baleen can be woven through and the basket is started. Hope you enjoy the pics.