Klamath River Area Basketry

The Yurok, Karuk, and Hupa live in the area of the Klamath and Trinity Rivers. Here are thick forests of redwoods, cedars, and spruces, and rivers that once offered bountiful supplies of fish. In aboriginal times the people acquired much of their food through fishing, but like other Native Californians, they also harvested acorns as the staple in their diet. Despite their linguistic differences, these three cultural groups have a close relationship with frequent intermarriage. They also have in common a particularly beautiful style of basketry that is very difficult to distinguish from one culture to the other.

Traditional Klamath River Area basketry is almost invariably made through the technique of twining and is characterized by a unique decorative method -- half-twist overlay. In overlay twining, the design is created when the weft is covered with a colored element that obscures it either completely, as in full-twist overlay, or partly, as in half-twist overlay. Whereas the full-twist method forms a design both on the interior and exterior of the basket, the designs appear only on the exterior of baskets woven with the half-twist overlay technique. The warp or foundation of Klamath River baskets is usually hazel (Corylus rostrata californica) or willow (Salix sp.), with the weft made of conifer root (Pinus sp.), largely obscured by the overlay material. The background or field overlay material is most often bear grass (Xerophyllum tenax). Black designs are made with maidenhair fern stems (Adiantum pedatum), while red patterns are formed with the alder-dyed (Alnus rubra) stems of the giant chain ferm (Woodwardia spinulosa).

The two baskets on the right are for serving acorn mush. The upper one measures 5 1/2 inches in diameter. The lower one has a diameter of 9 inches. The lidded basket to the right (5 1/2" in diameter; 6" high) is an example of a non-traditional form made for the art market


Basketry Introduction | Pomo Coiled | Pomo Twined | Klamath River Area | Southern California