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Basket weaving moves from potato fields into art and fashion worlds – CBC.ca

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Gabriel Frey sits in his workshop, his towering frame hunched under a lamp, the only light illuminating the room. He shifts on his stool and grimaces slightly as he weaves one piece of black ash over another in a delicate but rhythmic dance. 

“Our creation story is based in black ash,” Frey said. 

“We have the mythical figure of Kluskap, who shot an arrow into an ash tree and within the heart of the tree was Wabanaki people.”

The traditional territory of the Wabanaki Confederacy, made up of the Peskotomuhkati, Abenaki, Mi’kmaq, Penobscot and Wolastoqiyik nations, is known as the “Land of the Dawn,” and its black ash has been a critical resource of the Wabanaki people for thousands of years.  

Frey, who grew up in a Peskotomuhkati family of basket makers in Maine, has fond memories of his grandfather pounding an ash log with the blunt side of an axe in the yard.

Frey makes handbags inspired by his grandfather’s traditional Peskotomuhkati ash pack baskets. (Logan Perley/CBC)

Historically, ash baskets were made to serve a purpose. They were fish baskets or pack baskets when Wabanaki nations lived a more migratory life.

In Canada, weaving baskets became a means of survival after the Indian Act of 1876, which confined First Nations peoples to reserves, requiring them to get the permission of an Indian agent to leave to hunt or work to provide for their families.

Many families would work together to weave baskets to sell to nearby farmers for carrying potatoes or using in other ways.

“We’ve always made baskets,” Frey said.

Over the years, Frey has refined his technique and shrunk the pack basket to the size of a handbag and added leather and other embellishments. (Logan Perley/CBC)

But like other Wabanaki craftspeople, Frey has been pushing the medium beyond its old utilitarian purpose. These basket weavers are taking the craft out of the potato fields and into the art galleries. Even into fashion.

Though Frey was a bit late to the craft himself, he always knew it was in his roots. 

“I didn’t really start making baskets until I was around 18, and that was when my grandfather was diagnosed with emphysema,” he said. “I kind of got a sense of the precious nature of the work that has always been in the family.”

Frey said he realized he suddenly had very little time to learn the craft — “a whole life of knowledge” — from his grandfather Fred Moore, known around the community in earlier years as someone almost too determined to respect tradition.

Wabanaki basket weavers are transforming the traditional craft, creating fashion and taking basket-making from the potato fields into art galleries. 3:43

When Frey began to learn how to weave baskets, his grandfather wouldn’t allow him to use a mould. He first had to be skilled enough to freehand weave a basket.

Frey’s grandfather lived longer than the prognosis he was given, but his illness motivated Frey to spend time with his elder and learn.

Baskets for today

As he worked on his craft, Frey began to question what modern utility could look like, and how people could get the most use out of a basket today.

“How do you create something that still has this traditional form that can be carried forward and actually used, and can be even thought of as stylish, and actually interesting and be a representation of our culture that can be seen in an everyday form?”

He eventually came to the idea of making baskets to be used as purses, totes and fanny packs. Over time, he incorporated leather and other embellishments into the baskets. 

Frey said he thinks his late grandfather would get a kick out of the baskets he’s making today using traditional  techniques.

Frey admires the work of artists who have come before him as well as those creating today. 

“I’m still surprised when I see stuff in art galleries,” he said, adding he still feels as if he’s learning.  

The baskets that inspired artist Shane Perley-Dutcher and some of his recent works in silver. (Logan Perley/CBC)

Frey is happy society has come to appreciate Indigenous art.

“You know in the past it would’ve been the same amount of work but for five cents,” Frey said. “Now, our culture is in a place where it recognizes the amount of artistry that goes into it and actually feels comfortable paying for that.”

Inspiration from elders

Shane Perley-Dutcher has been weaving baskets a different way — with silver.

“I always call our traditional knowledge keepers ‘kitchen table artists’ because that’s where a lot of stuff was made,” Perley-Dutcher, a Wolastoqi silversmith from Tobique First Nation.

Though black ash is the traditional material of Wabanaki basket weaving, Perley-Dutcher drew inspiration from late elder Charles Solomon, who once wove potato baskets to sell to farmers.

Perley-Dutcher drew inspiration from an elder basket maker when he begun weaving silver and other precious metals into baskets. (Logan Perley/CBC)

Solomon later transitioned to a more unconventional material when the physical labour of pounding ash became too difficult. 

“When he couldn’t pound the ash anymore, he still didn’t want to give up,” Perley-Dutcher said. “So what he did was he got people in the community to donate venetian blinds to him.

“He would take the venetian blinds apart and he’d still weave baskets,” Perley-Dutcher said. “Just the idea of not doing it …  it was a weird thing for him.

“Creator gave me the ability to do something that my ancestors loved, that I love and that my grandchildren love, so why would I ever stop doing that?” 

Perley-Dutcher has been incorporating basket-weave techniques into his jewelry since he began silversmithing. He says it’s important his art has a piece of his Wolastoqey identity. (Logan Perley/CBC)

This profound message was what made Perley-Dutcher look at basket making from a different perspective. 
With the words of his elders in mind, Perley-Dutcher began to make baskets from silver and other precious metals.

He considers himself “pretty novice” as a basket maker. But basket weaving has become a trademark of the jewelry that Perley-Dutcher makes.

“These are just some of the techniques I’ve learned at a young age, practised over my career and started to apply to a different medium.” 

Both Frey and Perley-Dutcher attended the prestigious Santa Fe Indian Art Market in New Mexico over the summer and won in their respective categories for their work. 

The two artists also have pieces in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington as well as the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine. 

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Who Are the Indigenous Artists to Watch at Art Toronto? – Ocula Magazine

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Who Are the Indigenous Artists to Watch at Art Toronto?  Ocula Magazine



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Art Auctioneer Offers Up Midcentury Masterpiece In L.A. At $8.5 Million – Forbes

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With a career as a renowned art auctioneer and founder of Los Angeles Modern Auctions, Shannon Loughery knows a valuable masterpiece when she sees one—and Loughery’s recently listed Midcentury Modern-style home in Encino is just that.

Determining the value of a work of art is not so different from that of a home. Ask any art auctioneer or real estate broker around the globe, and they will tell you about the litany of factors that go into determining the worth of something and how many of those factors might overlap—like artist, uniqueness and condition.

The artist, in this case, is celebrated Los Angeles architect Donald G. Park, who designed the 1972-built home.

Known as the Lewis Estate, this abode may perhaps be Park’s magnum opus, or at the very least his most architecturally significant. A modernist marvel, the house consists of three expansive dodecagon structures bridged together with a glass pavilion.

Perched upon an acre of the Encino Hills with stunning views overlooking the San Fernando Valley, this one-of-a-kind house spans over 6,800 square feet of interior space with six bedrooms and six bathrooms.

The home’s unique design gives way to a spectacular interior with soaring wood panels that stretch across the geometric ceiling, walls of glass windows that allow for a 200-degree view, and warm-toned tile in a circular pattern that encloses a recessed living area with a fireplace.

Freestanding stones walls help to separate the floorplan but also allow ample space for displaying art.

The kitchen is styled with a retro feel but is outfitted with modern appliances like a smooth top stove located on the island with an overhead vent.

A variety of flooring is used throughout the house, including patterned tiles, parquet wood and mint green carpet that covers a sleek, spiral staircase. Rich color accents are ubiquitous and on full display in places like the deep green of the tub and sinks of the upstairs bathroom, the vivid pink and purple of the kitchen cabinetry and the built-in couch’s soft yellow.

Completing the floorplan are a separate vintage bar, two dining areas and an atrium opening to a breathtaking beamed skylight.

Outside, the patio faces the valley, where residents can gaze upon a landscape of mountains and city lights as they soak in the heated spa, swim in the pool or sit around the gas fire pit.

This rare home, located at 17862 Via Vallarta, is priced at $8,495,000. Mick Partridge of Hilton & Hyland is the listing agent.


Hilton & Hyland is a founding member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.

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Secrecy surrounds major new public art piece in downtown Kelowna – The Daily Courier

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A major piece of public art once planned for Highway 97 North disappeared last year after criticism from city councillors.

One main complaint about the proposed $250,000 sculpture, which featured 10 human figures perched atop tall poles, was that its beauty and grace would be lost by being placed next to the busy highway with all its speeding cars.

Coun. Gail Given suggested last November that artist Ted Fullerton’s proposed sculpture should have been located in pedestrian-friendly City Park where people could better relate to its scale and take pictures of themselves beside it.

Fast forward to Wednesday, when much secrecy was woven into a press release issued by the Kelowna Art Gallery about a “large new outdoor public art sculpture” about to be unveiled next to the building on Water Street.

“No announcements will have been made via any Gallery communications before the media preview event,” art gallery spokesman Joshua Desnoyers wrote in an email invitation to attend the event.

Feverish media minds, or one of them anyway, wondered if the about-to-unveiled sculpture was a revival of Fullerton’s ill-fated piece, which was conceived as a new ‘Welcome to Kelowna’ sign.

“I can confirm that it is not a sculpture by Ted Fullerton, although that is a very astute guess,” Desnoyers wrote in an email.

So media, and all of Kelowna, will have to wait until 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 27 to get a look at the sculpture, described as having been made by “an established artist whose work has been shown throughout North America and who has received major commissions in Canada and the U.S.”

Kelowna currently has more than 70 pieces of public art. The newest, whatever it is, will be located between two of the most photographed sculptures, ‘Rhapsody’, a representation of playful dolphins at the entrance to Waterfront Park, and ‘Bear’ , a representation of a bear, in Stuart Park.

The look of ‘Bear’ was such a closely guarded secret before its unveiling in 2010 that it was wrapped in plastic and a security guard was hired to watch over it the night before, lest anyone try to get a sneak peek.

Whatever happened to plans for a new Welcome to Kelowna sign on Highway 97 North also remains a bit of a mystery as calls to relevant authorities at City Hall were unreturned Wednesday.

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