Basket Weaving at National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian is one of my favorite museums because it is filled with incredibly beautiful objects that really speak to the heart of a craftsperson. Each item sings to me with its story of skills being passed down through the generations. I would love to spend my days just sitting near these artists and watching how their hands form such treasures.

Recently we visited and had a lovely surprise of a new children’s area. It has many awesome components, but the part that I fell in love with was the very first part, which was a display about different types of basket making. The displays do a great job telling about twining, coiling and plaiting.

 

Basket making style called twining - display at National Museum of the American Indian

Basket making style called twining – display at National Museum of the American Indian

There was also a screen where you try to match the basket type with the tribe that originated that style. It gives you information about the eco-system in that area. You then have to look closely at the basket to see if you can identify plants that would grow there – whether that is cedar, willow, sweetgrass, reeds or other materials. I was surprised how my 6-year-old son found this puzzle very interesting because it is actually difficult to look at a basket and extrapolate back to those natural materials, especially when you may not really know what strips of ash or willow look like.

There is also a giant basket that visitors can weave into – reminded me a bit of the EarthLooms at Weaving a Life.

Weaving Giant Basket - National Museum of the American Indian

Weaving Giant Basket – National Museum of the American Indian

How Are Native American Baskets Connected with Trashmagination?

Learning “the old ways” and the ways of many cultures¬†are essential to successful Trashmagination. We must learn how to invent with our hands, not only our minds, if we are to become mini-material scientists with our trash. When I look at these baskets, my mind immediately imagines making them from strips of cardboard or magazines or whatever other bizarre fiber we have deemed to be “trash.” It also speaks to my belief that the best Trashmagination is when we make things of extraordinary beauty from trash. There are a lots of “recycled crafts” out there on Pinterest and other places, but in most cases, the result is really not that beautiful. I know when we are teaching children, not everything can be a perfect act of craftsmanship. But I really dream of Trashmagination taking this discussion to a realm of beauty if at all possible.

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