Posted 5 years ago
I just got this one earlier today, made fresh to the market very recently in Maine and removed from the market just as quickly by me. This basket is in my most favorite shape, made by my most favorite tribes to collect from (Wabanaki). It is called a "Sea Urchin Basket", and it was made by a member of the Penobscot Native American tribe. There are others in the totality of the Wabanaki tribe that also made/makes this shape, but they were not made as skinny as the way the Penobscot tribe made theirs.
This basket is made of wood splints from the Brown Ash Tree and tidal Sweet Grass that is woven in the center of the lid and lashed around the bottom rim , and also braided to use as a decoration for the lid. It is 7 inches in diameter and close to 2 inches in height and was the hardest to make, because of the severe bend in the splints the maker needed to make and have hold. Because of this, the maker would charge more for them as they traveled from place to place to sell their baskets during the 1890's when this was made, and later in the early 1900's as they sold at train stations to the tourists.
The Sea Urchin shape was made less and less as the decades went by, and now there are only a few that weave the shape. They are the younger generation and some of the old shapes are coming back through them. I am watching them with great interest, and I have two baskets made by Jeremy Frey. One is his signature shape, called the Fine Weave Basket, and the other one I asked him to make for me. It was one of his Sea Urchin Baskets in the colors I picked out, and it is perfect. I certainly am not the only one that is very excited to see these young artists bring back the old shapes, and also to see the new shapes they are coming up with. They are also incorporating the old styles in with their new shapes, something that I like alot. I also have a miniature basket made by Ann Mitchell, from the Mohawk tribe. I bought the basket directly from her recently and I love her work. I am hoping to get one of her Cactus baskets, they are just wonderful! But the price for it is steep and I would have to save up for it. Right now I am happy to add her miniature basket to my private collection.
The colors are still nice on this basket, it had to have been kept out of sunlight in order to keep the colors from fading. The Sweet Grass is completely dried out on this basket with no odor to it at all. There is no damage at all to this Brown Ash splint basket, which is amazing in itself because these old baskets usually have the finials broken off from being pulled to open the lid or some of the splints are broken in the body of the basket. They also usually only have the colors present on the inside too due to fading from sunlight on the outside. The ones that are without any damage are being kept in private collections or in a museum, so I am thinking that this one had to be packed up and kept out of any sunlight based on the beautiful coloring it still retains. When a basket as rare as this is put on the market without a high pre-set price, it is usually by a relative of the deceased owner and they have no idea of how rare or valuable it is.
The braided sweet grass that is looped around like a snake on the lid is a design that was used around 1890-1910, I have another Urchin basket that I got awhile back that almost looks identical to this one (but this one has retained alot more color) that was made in 1890. But along with the color loss, that one also has the stitch that holds the lid to the body of the basket broken off. If you put the two nearly identical Urchin Baskets together side by side, you would think that the one in the pictures above was made very recently.
I love it when someone who has never been in my home before comes for a visit. They are surprised to see so many baskets that are in curio cabinets, and when I tell them how old most of them are they do not believe me. It is great to show them proof of the true age of the basket and I love watching their face change from disbelief, to amazment and wonder. I actually have a couple of friends that have started their own collections, but I have not told them my secrets as to how to find the best ones, LOL.
This was a great find, if I would have waited much longer the day it was put up for sale I would have missed it. Glad I didn't, enjoy the pics :)