I am forever grateful for being given the opportunity to learn traditional Black Ash Basketry. In 2008 I was chosen as a “student” to learn Basketry with the commitment that I would share what I learned in the future. I readily accepted the challenge and the responsibility.
I learned from experienced basket makers where to find and how to identify the Black Ash tree used as the raw material for basket making, as well as shown the labor intensive steps of preparing the raw material necessary before one can even begin to assemble baskets. What I appreciate about getting involved in this traditional art form is that is has engaged my entire families’ participation. Together we’ve taken down the tree, shaved the bark, pounded the log, split, shaved & gauged the raw material. When I demonstrate and teach basketmaking, it’s important to include these hands on activities to give people a true understanding of all the steps necessary to complete the finished product. I’ve made and taught utilitarian baskets – corn washers & berry baskets and decorative fancy baskets.
It’s a humbling experience to be a part of a renewed interest in the traditional art of Seneca Basketmaking. I look forward to sharing this knowledge with anyone interested, in order to keep this art form thriving within our Seneca communities.
Penelope S. Minner
Nation/Clan: Seneca/Turtle Clan
Media: Black ash splint baskets, corn husk dolls
and graphic design, watercolors
In the past, I had opportunties to teach or demonstrate my traditional arts at the SNI Education Dept., SUNY Fredonia, at the Erie County Fair, University of Buffalo cultural events, Routes to Art and the Dunkirk Historical Society, the Fenimore Museum and the Iroquois Indian Musuem. The challenge is to get the raw material, as the Emerald ash borer (beetle) has now infested our area. This will be an issue for the future of basket makers across Indian Country. Keeping the tradition alive by educating and raising awareness of this beautiful art form is one of my goals.
My parents were very artistic, traditional crafts people of their time. My father, Lester Jimerson was a traditional wood carver, mask maker, he made horn rattles and turtle rattles and traditional Seneca head dresses, while my mother, Hazel would make corn husk dolls and corn husk mats and salt bottles. They both have works in the Smithsonian Institute collections. Traditional arts and crafts were common place in our household. I learned much from watching them. I also learned a lot about basket making from my cousin, Midge Dean Stock. I feel that through my talents I am able to share their spirit with others to pass on to the next generation and to those who are willing to learn. Within the last 5 years I have worked within the community to teach black ash splint basket making and corn husk doll making, though I have been practicing the crafts for over 13 years.
The basket making process is time consuming and labor intensive and because of that, many new students find that it’s not for them. Finding a dedicated student to whom I can pass this along and keep the tradition alive is a true pleasure.
Nation/Clan: Seneca/Bear Clan
Media: Basketry and bead work
I have an AAS Marketing Degree from Monroe Community College and was employed at many Rochester, New York corporations until I retired in 1999.
I resided at Cattaraugus Reserve during my primary years with my mother, Dinah (Seneca) Kelly until my dad returned from WWII in September of 1945. Also, I am alumni of the Thomas Indian School, where I lived as a child when my mother was ill. I have been close to my heritage, in spite of not residing at Cattaraugus during my adult years. It’s a wonderful experience to now connect with the NRAG and experience all the talented and wonderful crafts made by incredible artists/natives.
My basket making skills started in September, 1997, when I took classes from Paula Welch, who resides in Avon, NY. I made every basket the first year that was offered – 21 baskets. I’ve always loved and have been very passionate about basket making. My grandmother, Lutia (Warrior) Seneca made baskets and used to sell them on Rte. 438 for $1, probably in the 40’s and 50’s.
After many years, I had the opportunity to learn many different styles of basket making. I have also submitted baskets to the Fall Festival. Many of the baskets that I’ve made I gave away as gifts or donated. Our home is decorated with many of the baskets that I’ve made.
Four years ago I started classes for bead work at a workshop in Wabasso, FL. I continue to take classes every year. I started with string beading, and then Peyote, and different styles using many different kinds and sizes of beads. Recently I learned “Braiding with Beads” on a Kumihimo Disk that is a Japanese art and “Native Loom Beading.” I really enjoy both of these crafts, and plan to continue learning other styles and methods of beading.
5224 East Lake Road , Livonia , NY
(585) 346-5617 – Cell: (585) 281-5480
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