Cedar Wing

Cedar Wing

Monday, September 27, 2010

Northwest Sweet Grass – Basket Grass – My Favorite Grass

No matter what name it goes by: Northwest sweet grass, basket grass, three-square, beach grass, common three-square, bulrush, three-cornered grass, scirpus Americanus, or weaver’s sedge - I always enjoy gathering, drying, organizing, and especially, weaving, with the grass that now goes by the botanical name: Schoenoplectus pungens Palla.

I’ll refer to it as NW sweet grass because of the sweet smell it emanates as I work with it. I recall many seasons of gathering with friends at low tide, many kayak trips into beautiful estuaries, paddling to remote beaches where young seals, river otters, fish of all sizes, and multitudes of bird species seemed hardly to notice our presence.

These are vital wetlands, where the rivers meet the sea, where fresh waters and salt waters converge and mix to create the most bountiful conditions for living creatures. It is mind-boggling to consider how less than ten percent of the original wetlands along the Puget Sound shorelines remain. Over 90 percent of these important flood-mitigating, water purifying, insect, reptile, fish, bird, and mammal feeding nurseries, have been lost, through human-activity, in just over a hundred years. Thankfully now, the few remaining intact estuaries in the Puget Sound Region are protected.

So how can a Puget Sound basket weaver continue the art of weaving with traditional materials if we can no longer gather in the wild?

Hopefully, weavers and their friends will follow the example of Jo Hart, of Wilderness Basketry in Seabeck. Not only does Jo teach fantastic basket weaving classes in her spacious workshop, she has had great success growing NW sweet grass in her own garden. This salt and moisture tolerant sedge, thrives in rich, composed soil, with full sun. Jo says she doesn’t even give it extra water. And now after six years of growth, the grass is getting, "a little out-of-hand", as she told me recently.  It is now spreading into her other garden spaces, so she has NW sweet grass  to share. Look up Wilderness Basketry for her contact info if you’d like to inquire about getting some starts.  Thanks Jo.

Jo's NW sweet grass plot, harvest late August 2010.

Here’s my humble patch of NW sweet grass. It is planted in a buried pond liner. Since I live in a canopy of tall trees, and much less light is available, I may never produce as much as Jo, but I’ll always have enough for my own use.

The tan-colored fine-material in this Chisel Pouch and Purse is NW sweet grass,
with cedar and other assorted NW materials. 

These are the basket examples for an upcoming class I'll be teaching August 4th-8th, 2011, at North Cascades Institute, on Diablo Lake in the North Cascades.  info@nci.org

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lauren Likes Her New Hat

An artist is never happier than when she/he is encouraged to create.  This encouragement comes in very practical forms, such as commissions from those who appreciate the art we practice.  Thank you Lauren for this opportunity.

Lauren wears her Cedar Hat well!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Art on the Trail – Messages From the Land Exhibit – Oct 1 to Nov 1, 2010

Once autumn slips its toe in the door the days quickly shorten. On the beautiful, crisp and clear fall days, there is still gathering to do. I’ve yet to collect cattail leaves and the stems of nettle and fireweed. The sweetgrass I grow at home, was gathered weeks ago, and is now dry. Rainy days like today, give me pause to review the summer and to think ahead.

What does Your Eye See?
This past July, along with nine other artists, I enjoyed interacting with the public on a trail in a beautiful park on Bainbridge Island. In a partnership between Bainbridge Arts and Crafts and the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, the ten artists participating that day will also contribute work for an exhibition this October, where 100 % of the proceeds will be donated to benefit the work of both organizations.

The Artists’ Reception and Exhibition opening is Friday, October 1, 2010, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Please come if you can. For more info: www.bacart.org.

I created the following two pieces for the Messages from the Land exhibit.  It is an honor to have my work in an exhibit with nine other artists who so creatively express their relationship to the Puget Sound landscape.

Precarious, Madrona, Willow, Ivy, Hazelnut, (approx: 28"x 24"x 22")

Nest #2, Willow, Ivy, Hazelnut, Handmande Cedar Bark Paper, (approx: 22"x 27"x 9")

A Hazelnut Branch "Eye"created for Art Along the Trail


These young weavers were very helpful!