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Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture

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The craftsman
Vol. VII, No. 5 (February 1905)

Book reviews,   pp. 613-621 PDF (2.8 MB)


Page 614


BOOK REVIEWS
person can see how it is done and can do
it. Rare old baskets are given, done in
these stitches.
  We have the work of different Indians,
showing us how each tribe is peculiar to
itself: far-off Alaska furnishing her own
peculiar and strong work, California giv-
ing us something entirely different.
  The work on these baskets, not only
shows technical skill, but the sentiments
of an artist and all are elaborately wrought
with folk-lore stories that make them pages
of Indian history. The basket-maker is
like the musician. He must be so perfect
a master of his art, that he need not go
back and correct.    This is a lesson in
morals, as all exact sciences are. First of
all be right.
  In the making and the using of the bas-
ket, the Indian woman had reference first
of all to the convenience of her own body,
the curves, the length, the width, all show
that thought in mind. Beauty comes as a
secondary thought; but finally beauty be-
comes supreme over use. We see the sense
of beauty co-existing with most forlorn
poverty.   Finally pride of performance
comes to rule here, quite as much as in the
realm of riches and of a higher civiliza-
tion.
  Geometry shapes the basket, just as it
rules Moorish art; and these shapes differ
in different parts of the United States.
Cylinders and rectangles rule among the
Algonquin and Iroquois. In the interior,
where flax abounds in the wild state, the
sack form is most frequent. In the Rocky
Mountains, the prevalence of birch, leads
to more solid forms. A basket, from any
part of the United States, shows pains-
taking and aesthetic principles in its work.
614
As the Indian came in contact with the
white, the basket passed through new
forms of evolution to suit the new needs
of the white man.
  The ornamentation of basketry is free-
hand mosaic; but the more delicate kinds
are elaborate pen-drawings. Unity in va-
riety characterizes all basketry. Diaper
patterns, as in the Alhambra, are frequent
on the Indian baskets. Added to these
is the Greek fret, old as civilization itself
or perhaps older, and universal as orna-
ment, and always beautiful.
   Sometimes birds form the decoration.
This makes a gay looking basket. Sym-
bolism entered largely into ancient bas-
ketry; but commercialism has done much
to obliterate this, especially among the
Eastern tribes.
  We have a chapter on the uses of the
basket, which shows what a civilizing ele-
ment it was among the early Indians.
Then it passed from the humble and use-
ful to the useless beautiful and became an
object of art. It is also associated with the
"last act," not only wrapping the dead, but
some of the finer specimens were sacri-
ficed at the grave, as we sacrifice the flow-
ers. Bread for the altar service was put in
baskets, just as Aaron and his family car-
ried the shew bread in baskets.
  The second volume is devoted largely to
the distribution of the baskets among the
different tribes. In this we have all kinds
of baskets described and pictured, the spe-
cialists of different tribes, the method of
making, the best kinds. With this volume
in hand one can analyze his basket, as the
botanist does his flowers. A last word is
to collectors. Basketry and pottery are
the sibylline leaves on which the Indian


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