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December 30, 2009 > Ohlone basketry workshops

Ohlone basketry workshops

By Alissa Gwynn
Photos By Alan Dalton

The Ohlone people are known as early local inhabitants of the Bay Area. Among their accomplishments is the creation of elaborate baskets for gathering food, holding water, and cooking. Basket-making took months of hard labor so women made them well. Baskets could last a lifetime and were often elaborately decorated with patterns and colors. Now, as ancestral art is restored by descendents of the Ohlones, Coyote Hills East Bay Regional Park District is inviting people to experience the art of basket making through two workshops that will be held on Sunday, January 10.

In the Ohlone basketry basics workshop, held at the Coyote Hills Visitor Center from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., participants will learn about various plants and techniques used to weave, as well as the cultural context and functions of basketry. Beverly Ortiz, a Coyote Hills naturalist, and Carol Bachmann, an Ohlone descendent, will show baskets, short videos, and slides to supplement their instruction of the process and significance of basketry. This workshop is free of charge and open to ages 10 and above interested in Ohlone weaving traditions.

A willow basketry workshop will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., and participants ages 18 and up will have the opportunity to weave their own baskets with willow roots grown and gathered from Quarry Lakes. In addition to simply weaving, participants will see and experience the preparation necessary before beginning to weave.

"Contrary to what people imagine, it's not just gathering (materials) from plants, you need to tend to that plant beforehand... many things happen before you even weave," says naturalist Beverly Ortiz. Participants will learn how to prune willow bushes so the next year's growth is healthier and stronger than if left untended.

Additionally, Ortiz points out that there are various spiritual and social rules associated with basketry; typically when weavers collect from plants, they pray and compensate for what they've taken. Participants will learn that lesson. "We take from the Earth and say 'please'; we give back to the Earth and say 'thank you'." The willow basketry workshop will be held at Quarry Lakes, Ensenada Parking Area, and is $15 for individual residents of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, $13 for seniors, and $17 and $15 for non-resident individuals and seniors, respectively. Parking for Quarry Lakes is $5.To register for the course, call 1-888-EBPARKS (1-888-327-2757, option 2, 3).

Both courses, Ohlone Basketry Basics and Willow Basketry Workshop, are intended for beginners curious about the art of Ohlone basketry. For those who enjoy the classes, a more complex, 18-hour Twine Basketry course will be held in February in which participants will gather, split, size, and trim materials.

Don't miss this opportunity to explore the rich Ohlone tradition of basketry!

Ohlone Basketry Basics
Sunday, January 10
10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Coyote Hills Visitor Center
8000 Patterson Ranch Road, Fremont
(510) 544-3220
Free of charge

Willow Basketry
Sunday, January 10
12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Quarry Lakes, Ensenada Parking Lot
2100 Isherwood Way, Fremont
(1-888-327-2757, option 2, 3)

Registration required
Fee: $15 individual, $13 senior (non-resident $17 individual, $15 senior)
Parking permit: $5

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