“Basketmaking keeps Native American artist in touch with ancestors,” an interview by Paul Larson from Borderless North this past January 18, 2013, gives insight into a contemporary artist using old techniques to create traditional yet innovative baskets.
Seneca artist Penelope Minner creates beautiful baskets, keeping in touch with her Native American heritage. This is a segment in the Native American Artistry series, produced by Paul Larson, and presented as a “Spotlight” segment on Mountain Lake PBS programs. (Borderless North)
Basketry has been an important skill in many Native American cultures, and continues to be a tradition passed down through the ages. Baskets were an important tool that were useful in everyday life (gathering food etc.) and for transportation. They were also an important trade item with other tribes and later European settlers.
Penelope Minner creates her baskets because she wants to carry on her people’s tradition in our area and desires to perpetuate the art. She was taught basketry by her cousin, and feels that it’s important to educate the public and share the tradition with others. She displays her baskets at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York, and also gives demonstrations there and at other workshops to pass on her knowledge.
Minner uses a jackknife to prepare her splints (the wood she weaves into baskets). She tries to stay close to traditional preparation and weaving methods even though she looks for influence from patterns and designs of other cultures to use in her work. She does not use a lot of color and keeps her baskets in natural wood tones.
She tells her students that it’s alright if their baskets aren’t perfect because nothing in nature is perfect. If there are flaws it’s okay because that works organically with the materials and the finished product feels natural.