Black Ash Basket workshop at Woodland Cultural Centre a success

The Woodland Cultural Centre had its first Basket making workshop this past weekend. Nearly 15 participants went through the two day workshop with Tyendinaga basket weaver Carol Anne Maracle.

Each person completed a corn wash basket made with Black Ash strips. These baskets were traditionally used for rinsing the hardwood ash from white corn in the lying process. Artistic Director to the WCC Naomi Johnson said the work involved was difficult but satisfying. “Its definitely not for wimps,” she joked.

There were many cut fingers in the class, but all were pleased with the workshop. “It is a great learning experience.” said participant Bobi Jo Johnson.

Maracle, a basket weaver and teacher from Tyendinaga shares, “I made a bucket list and when my children moved out basket making was on the top of my bucket list.” She started learning the art form, but it was a big commitment. Maracle travelled for two and a half hours, twice a week from Tyendinaga to Akwesasne for her three hour class.

“I took fancy baskets, sweetgrass baskets, strawberry baskets and the fancier baskets. I took a four day workshop for the large backpack basket. For the last four years I have been teaching it.

I grew up doing leatherwork and beadwork and was teaching at the local schools. Once I got more comfortable with basket weaving, I started teaching that at the schools as well. It went from a hobby to becoming a job.”

The baskets are made from strips of wood from the Black Ash tree. Since being involved in basket making Maracle has become aware of the depletion of the Black Ash in Southern Ontario.

A devastating infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer has claimed millions of trees in the dish with one spoon territory. Since 2004 large spread quarantine for infected forests have been part of an ongoing effort by the Canada Food Inspection Agency to protect the ash trees which remain.

Maracle encourages people to look through local nurseries for black ash seedlings and plant them as part of a reforestation effort in Southern Ontario.“They are the most versatile wood. They grow in the water, so the actual tree loves the water. If you take one down, put one back.”

For more information on the black ash visit the Ministry of Natural Resources website and for more information on future Basket Weaving workshops contact the Woodland Cultural Centre or call (519) 759-2650.

by Nahnda Garlow

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