Tuesday, April 13, 2021
April 13, 2021

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Contemporary Native basketry show weaves old and new

Works on display at Clark College combine traditional techniques with modern inspiration

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:
6 Photos
Bernice Akamine, left, helps 12-year-old Davin Carsten of Vancouver carve a pattern into a piece of bamboo Sunday afternoon during a stamp-making workshop at Clark College. Akamine's art is included in a show titled "Woven: The Art of Contemporary Native Basketry" at the college's Archer Gallery.
Bernice Akamine, left, helps 12-year-old Davin Carsten of Vancouver carve a pattern into a piece of bamboo Sunday afternoon during a stamp-making workshop at Clark College. Akamine's art is included in a show titled "Woven: The Art of Contemporary Native Basketry" at the college's Archer Gallery. (Stevie Mathieu/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Beyond weaving baskets, the artists who visited Clark College on Sunday also know how to weave the old with the new.

Joe Feddersen of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation showed art lovers a photo of a basket he recently made, designed with white diamonds and straight, white lines on its outside. The pattern was inspired by the lanes on a highway, including the HOV lane.

Feddersen, a printmaker who didn’t start weaving baskets until he was about 40, said he also draws design inspiration from tire-tread marks he finds on the ground. The manufacturer names of those tires include “Rugged Trail,” “Eagle” and “Winter Force,” he said.

“I became really interested in the irony of it. These are the new marks on our land,” Feddersen told a crowd of about 50 people in Foster Auditorium. “Our designs come from what’s around us.”

His baskets and work by other artists are on display through April 23 at the college’s Archer Gallery in a show titled “Woven: The Art of Contemporary Native Basketry.” On Sunday, the public was invited to hear the artists talk in the morning, then attend afternoon workshops where they could make their own art.

If You Go

• What: “Woven: The Art of Contemporary Native Basketry” art show.

• When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The show’s final day is April 23.

• Where: Clark College’s Archer Gallery, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver.

• Information: imndn.org

Native Hawaiian Bernice Akamine started her art career as a glass-blower. She began to incorporate traditional Hawaiian beading and netting techniques into her glasswork. Then she started adding feathers to the glass.

She showed the audience photos of her work. When she got to the photo of glass orbs hugged by yellow and red feathers, audience members oohed and aahed. The feathers were the same colors used in Hawaiian feather cloaks, she said.

She eventually moved from glasswork to making baskets, still incorporating beading and feathers into her designs. She showed one basket with beads lining the inside. For another basket, she separated feathers into strands and allowed the wisps to poke out from the sides of the basket.

“I like to surprise the viewer,” Akamine said.

Her art also includes printing with natural inks on kapa, a fabric made by Native Hawaiians from tree or shrub bark.

Hands-on workshops

Later in the day, Akamine led a two-hour class on making and using bamboo stamps. Her students cut into pieces of bamboo, carving traditional Hawaiian shapes: suns to represent sea urchins, triangles to represent shark teeth, and a squiggly line to represent a worm.

The students then used dried pieces of hala fruit as a brush to cover their stamps in ink. The inks were made by mixing oil with a variety of natural elements, including berries, noni root and the red iron oxide found in some Hawaiian rocks. They stamped their designs on sheets of kapa.

Davin Carsten, 12, and his mother, Sharon Carsten, of Vancouver were among the dozen people in Akamine’s class. Davin said he learned some new things during the artists’ presentations earlier in the day, including that settlers sent many native people to boarding school to be assimilated into white culture.

“Some of them just pretended and then came back … to their tribes and traditions,” he said.

During the workshop, he asked Akamine plenty of questions.

“I wonder what they carved these with,” he said of the bamboo stamps. “I always wondered how ancient people did this kind of thing when they didn’t have access to metals.”

Akamine told him that Native Hawaiians used shark teeth and sharpened pieces of coral.

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