Learning the art of basket making

Posted Aug. 23, 2010, at 6:24 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:54 p.m.

One of the many blessings Maine can boast is Native Americans who nurture and practice their ancient art of basket making, people willing to share what they know through workshops sponsored by the Abbe Museum — another of Maine’s blessings — in Bar Harbor. The museum houses artifacts of the Wabanaki people and offers exhibits and programs to teach the public about Wabanaki culture.

Artist Pam Cunningham will conduct a one-day workshop in which she will teach participants to make an ash and sweet grass basket. Participants will use natural and dyed ash to craft their own prayer basket. The workshop is set for 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 31, at the Abbe Museum’s Community Gallery.

Cunningham is a Penobscot master basket maker. She comes from a family of artists — her mother is the well-known birch bark artist ssipsis.

Cunningham’s fancy baskets come in many styles, but she is known for her Honor Basket and her acorn-shaped Prayers for Humanity basket.

In 2009, she was one of 11 contemporary Native American artists featured in the Abbe Museum’s invitational exhibition, “Twisted Path: Native American Artists Walking in Two Worlds.”

During the exhibit she crafted her “Self-Medicating Basket” from cardboard and plastic to call attention to the threat that the invasive emerald ash borer beetle poses to ash tree populations in Maine.

During the prayer basket workshop, Cunningham will instruct participants in the art of fancy basket weaving. By day’s end, each participant will finish their own prayer basket. The basket, which has no lid, is filled with symbolic items, including a prayer braid, shell and smudger.

Cunningham will instruct participants how to craft colorful curls and decorative features for the ash baskets.

Registration is required. The cost is $50 Abbe Museum members, $75 others.

For more information or to register, call Astra Haldeman at 288-3519 or e-mail astra@abbemuseum.org.

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Artists are always finding ways to benefit good causes and this always has been true of Designing Women. The artists’ organization is planning a show and sale in Camden.

Designing Women, a nonprofit volunteer corporation that works with organizations that benefit women and girls in local communities, will hold its second midcoast Maine fine art and craft show 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4, at the First Congregational Church in Camden. The show is the group’s 10th of the year and its only event in the midcoast region.

Designing Women was established in 1991. Its membership of women designers and artists, mostly from Maine with some from New Hampshire, now exceeds 120. In addition to offering for purchase its creations to the public, the group collaborates with nonprofits to raise funds for programs that benefit women and girls. Given the organization’s commitment to “women helping women,” the $2 door donation to the show will go to the sponsored nonprofit, New Hope for Women, the recipient for the second time. Attendees’ door donation also provides entry into a drawing for a selection of items from Maine businesses.

New Hope, which will mark its 30th anniversary next year, offers services to those affected by domestic and dating violence in Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties. It provides a 24-hour crisis hot line, support groups, legal services, safe homes and transitional housing, school programs, community outreach and workplace training. It also operates Time for Change, a certified batterer intervention program.

Staff and volunteers from New Hope will serve luncheon fare at 11 a.m. Menu items include homemade chili and chicken salad, bagels, desserts, coffee and water. Information about New Hope’s programs and services will be available at the event.

New Hope will display a handmade quilt-wall-hanging crafted by Marty Peak Helman and Kevin Bowler. Tickets for a drawing to win the quilt — the drawing held later in the year — will be available for $2 each or three for $5. CDs of music by Nick Apollonio and friends available for purchase.

Organizers say the Designing Women show will feature a variety of items in a wide range of prices. Among the offerings are weaving, graphics, pottery, hats, glass, porcelain, sculptures, porcelain and silver jewelry, paintings and cards.

For more information, about Designing Women, visit www.designingwomen.org. For more information about New Hope for Women, visit www.newhopeforwomen.org.

Snippets

- A fiber yard sale will be held during the Orono Village Fest Saturday, Sept. 11, in the parking lot of Fiberphilia, Mill Street, Orono. Rent a space for $5 and sell your yarn stash and related items during the fair.

To reserve a space, call Michele Goldman at 866-3423.

- Dichroic glass? Metal smithing? Learn what it’s all about when the artists behind the Jewelry Artisans of Maine Cooperative Store demonstrate jewelry-making techniques 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 29, at the store in East Hampden. Local artisans will give free demonstrations on techniques such as fold formed copper pieces, knotted hemp bead necklaces, dichroic glass cutting, layering and fusing, beaded rings, Kumihimo Japanese knotting and more.

For more information, call 941-9636 or e-mail mainejewelryart@yahoo.com.

- And last but by no means least, make plans to stroll the arts and crafts avenue at the American Folk Festival Aug. 27-29 in Bangor. Look for hand woven items; handspun yarn from a variety of furry creatures; balsam fir products; glass beads and other items; all manner of jewelry including beach glass, dichoric glass, knitted linen and traditional metals; items crafted by Maine’s Native Americans; pottery; carved wood such as decoys, kitchen implements and furniture; and herbal products.

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