Black Ash Basketmaking
November 16, 9:00 am - November 17, 1:00 pm$185
Learn every step of traditional black ash basketry in this forest-to-basket class!
Black ash trees are uniquely suitable for basketmaking, and members of Vermont’s Abenaki community and many others have made black ash baskets for centuries. The tree is threatened by Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), and basketmakers have been on the front lines of EAB research and response from the beginning.
In this day-and-a-half workshop, Abenaki basketmakers Kerry and Aaron Wood will teach each step of the basketmaking process, beginning with a walk through an ash stand, assessing living trees for basket quality, processing ash splints, weaving a basket, and exploring indigenous cultural values of ash trees. Participants will go home with their own foraging basket and lid.
This event is co-hosted by the North Branch Nature Center.
To learn more about Emerald Ash Borer in Vermont, read VLT ecologist Allaire Diamond’s essay.
About the Instructors:
Ash and sweetgrass basketmaking has been a craft in Kerry’s family for generations. Her great grandmother, Elvine Obomsawin, and her family made their living by making and selling baskets. Kerry has been privileged to be able to apprentice under master artist Jeanne Brink for the past three years through the Vermont Folklife Center Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, along with her son, Aaron Wood. Jeanne Brink is also her cousin, and hearing the stories from their shared Obomsawin family heritage while learning basketmaking brought her past alive! When she is making baskets, she feels a deep connection with those who have gone before her and is at peace and connected. Her husband helps prepare the ash by harvesting the ash trees and, with Aaron, pounds and splits the ash. The family works together to create the materials for baskets from the harvest of the tree to the final project. She enjoys teaching future generations this craft. Basketmaking is part of the Abenaki soul and heritage, and it is important to make sure it is never lost.
Aaron Wood is an Abenaki basketmaker. The 25th apprentice of master Abenaki basketmaker Jeanne Brink, he has been weaving black ash and sweetgrass baskets for five years. He is a Journeyman member of the Vermont Abenaki Artist Association, and his baskets are in private collections across New England and Canada. Aaron harvests black ash and processes his splint by hand with self-made tools. He demonstrates this traditional skill throughout the Northeast at Native American festivals and powwows, as well as private workshops for both splint preparation and basket weaving. His art is guided by traditional, land-based knowledge and his study of the Abenaki language. He weaves fancy baskets, as well as baskets for ceremony, household use, wildcrafting, and other tasks to preserve and promote Abenaki traditional material culture.