The Highlight of the Month program at The Indian Craft Shop focuses on a particular craft area, region or artist family/group. Our aim is to illustrate the diversity of tribal groups and the wide variety of artistic expressions and traditions in the country today.
For those who love baskets, Carol Emarthle-Douglas is a treasure. She captures the richness of Native cultures that have elevated baskets from utility to fine art. She makes baskets in the styles of many nations. The baskets are contemporary, but made with traditional techniques and native materials, such as cedar bark and cedar roots, bear grass, cornhusks, pine needles, as well as, contemporary materials like commercial reed, hemp, raffia and Irish waxed linen thread. "As a contemporary weaver, I am always looking for ways to add new colors and textures to a basket," says Carol.
"I am fortunate to be a part of two cultures, Seminole and Northern Arapaho," says Carol. As a result of her dual heritage, Carol has learned the styles, patterns and colors from Tribes in the Southeast, as well as the Plains. But, not stopping there, her interest in basket techniques led her to master weavers from the Skokomish, Pomo, Colville and Haida who have shared their skills with her.
As a result of her constant experimentation with old and new materials, she makes small “treasure” baskets and cedar “basket pouches” strung on glass beads and shell, with amazingly detailed designs that can be worn as jewelry. She makes miniature baskets small enough to be worn as earrings, and large baskets with intricate designs. Whatever the style, her baskets are always a delightful surprise. Her work is unique; no two baskets are ever alike.
"I like to see if cedar will work with waxed linen thread, or if cornhusk will work with reed," says Carol. "I also like to challenge myself to see if a certain picture or design will work on a basket that I am creating. I look for inspiration in any design that catches my eye, whether it is the design on a powwow dancer’s dress, a design on pottery, jewelry, or in everyday life such as a landscape or even modern architecture. I am constantly looking for new designs to challenge me."
Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Carol lives in the Seattle area with her husband and two sons. "I learned the art of basket weaving at the Basketry School of Seattle," says Carol, taking classes while her sons were young. At her first class on coiling, she discovered her talent for weaving and working with her hands. She entered her first competition in 1996 at Indian Art Northwest in Portland, Oregon, where her basket won 1st place in the coiling division. "This experience opened up a whole new world for me," says Carol. "Imagine doing something that you love and actually getting paid for it!" Since then, Carol's work has been awarded ribbons from many other shows.
And, just as other weavers shared their skills with her, Carol shares hers with others. She is an active member of the Northwest Native American Basketweavers Association and the NW Basketry Guild in Seattle. She has taught basketry at a Native Women’s consortium and the Huchoosedah’s Culture Night in Seattle. A jingle dress dancer, she belongs to a dance group that presents at schools and cultural events.
"Basket weaving is a very time consuming art," says Carol. "People that do it must be dedicated because it is not easy to mass-produce baskets. The traditional materials are getting harder to find and gather, but by learning new techniques and incorporating contemporary materials we can perpetuate and promote the art of Native American basketry."
©The Indian Craft Shop 2003