Tips by Dr. Lori

Native American baskets

by Dr. Lori Verderame
Native American baskets

Native American baskets have graduated from necessary objects of everyday use to cherished antiques. To identify a basket’s origin, consider the materials, design, and form. Foundation weaving methods are use on tradition basketry forms made by southwestern, northern, and plains tribes.

In the Pacific Northwest, Tlingit baskets are made of spruce root, cedar, and dyed grasses native to the area. The woven style consists of three main processes: twining, plaiting, and coiling. Twining has two wefts cross over each other between warps. Plaiting or checker weaving has the material woven in an under/over pattern resembling a checker board. Coiling is a sewing technique.

Design Characteristics

Native American basketThe common design element found in Native American basketry is geometric symmetry. You will also this element in Old Pawn Indian Jewelry. Intricate geometric designs were popular with the Native Americans in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Pictorial baskets, those with recognizable figural designs of hunters or fisherman, for instance, are among the most desirable baskets within today’s market.

A Native American basket’s form relates directly to its function. Tightly woven baskets were used for cooking food, collecting water, and storage. Sturdy work baskets or burden baskets were woven with durable materials capable of supporting heavy loads. Traditional cylindrical container baskets were used for food storage. Some loosely woven baskets aided in gathering fish as these woven baskets allowed water to drain thru while catching fish near riverbanks and waterways.

Contact and Trade

During the early 1900s, Native American baskets were produced for sale to non-Natives and to tourists. The forms and designs of these baskets differed significantly from those original, functional baskets. The basket trade increased dramatically as highly portable and beautiful souvenirs.

Native American baskets are among some of the most popular and pricey objects sought after by collectors, historians, and students of early cultures. Depending on origin, tribal relationship, and condition, quality Native American baskets range in value from $5,000 to $50,000. Always look for good condition and an authentic provenance. There are a lot of cheap baskets out there that may look like the real thing, so do your homework and make sure you know your stuff before you buy. Don’t just discard your old baskets or disregard them as cheap imitations—it may be the real thing.

Get an online appraisal report of your Native American basket from Dr. Lori.

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