APRIL STONEDAHL (pictured on the left) will be creating panels of basket weaving for the Viking Family Portrait frame. The frame will display Nordic wood carvings next to the Native American basket weaving. I will introduce the Nordic wood carver in the next post. Early in my research I was fascinated with what is known, what is probable, and what I imagined happening as the Viking culture and the Native American culture came together in North America. The Runestone Museum has an extensive Native American collection on display near their Viking diorama. With these connections it seemed reasonable to do something with the painting to show the Native American influence on the Viking culture and history.
April understands this historical connection and has that connection with her Scandinavian husband.
April is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa/Ojibwe. She began weaving black ash baskets in 1999. She came to realize she was the only ash basket weaver making baskets in her band and among just a hand full in all of the northern Chippewa/Ojibwe in Wisconsin. Starting with the hand gathered and prepared raw material, April weaves baskets that are meant for use and takes great pride in her work. Besides teaching from her studio she teaches ash basketry in her community on the Bad River reserve and in the neighboring reserves, and at different venues through out northern Wisconsin and Michigan.
She and her husband, Jarrod, decided to call their business Woodspirit in the late 90's after nearly 10 years of research and learning about the how's and why's of utilitarian craft. Though not aware if it at the time, through the learning of how to use the natural materials that made up the baskets, spoons, bowls, snowshoes and toboggans they were making, their personal philosophies were being shaped as well. They come to understand and believe that through the use of these items they could gain an insight into the natural world and the interconnectedness of it all.
April says, "These items connect us to the past, present and future. The past, our heritage or culture, is steeped with the making and using of handmade utilitarian items. In the present, these items have mostly been replaced by items made of cheap inferior material and poor design which have brought the making of these items to the point of near extinction. The future, our hope, is a movement back into recognition that making and using quality hand made items not only supports local artisans and local economies and carries on an age old tradition, but also gives the user a sense of satisfaction.
Please look at the frame design on the color comp in the earlier post to see how the weaving will be used. I spoke with Rich Kephart, the cabinet maker, today and Phillip Odden the Nordic wood carver. The frame is a story in itself with these three contributing their skills and cultures to the project. Rich is Jewish, April is Ojibwe, Phillip is Norwegian, and I am Swedish and Norwegian. A very fun group of artists to work with!