Pomo Twined Basketry
Most Pomo utility baskets are twined. They tend to be larger than the coiled gift baskets, but are just as finely made. Twining begins with a crossed warp stick arrangement held by the weft, such as you see in the drawing on the left and in the twined start (right), which was made especially for the museum by Laura Somersal, well known Pomo weaver and teacher (1892-1990). The most common method is the plain two-strand twining, using willow as the foundation, sedge roots for the weft, and redbud for the designs. Occasionally, as in the case of many cooking baskets, the weft is of conifer root (Pinus sp.). The basket below on the right is an example of a plain twined cooking basket made with a conifer root weft and bulrush designs. It measures 13 inches in diameter.
Diagonal twining is often found in Pomo basketry, and sometimes may include redbud designs made in the wrapped twining method. The lattice twining method is also common, particularly on baskets where extra strength is needed. For example, the center bottom of most twined baskets is lattice twined, and open twined burden baskets, where the weft rows are separated showing the foundation, often incorporate lattice twining.
Baskets were traditionally used in all stages of food gathering, storage, and preparation. Acorn-processing baskets and tools were especially efficient. Burden baskets were used for the collection of acorns. Full of acorns, they would be carried on the back within a carrying net held by a tump line wound around the forehead. Acorns (and other foods) were stored in large baskets such as the one shown. This fine example of a large (27" in diameter) lattice twined storage basket, was made by Annie Burke (1876-1962), mother of Elsie Allen (1899-1990), the well known Pomo weaver.
When a woman wanted to prepare acorn mush, she first shelled and cleaned the acorn meats, using a winnowing tray. Next she processed the acorns into a flour by pounding them in a stone mortar with a pestle. A hopper basket was often used in the mortar to keep the acorns in place. After leaching the tannic acid from the acorn meal with water, she cooked in another large basket using very hot stones as the source of heat.
The cooking basket also illustrates a special Pomo basketry feature called the dau. The dau is a purposeful design deviation which alters the symmetry or introduces additional shapes in an otherwise consistent pattern. (See the blue arrows.) Found mainly on baskets with horizontal design bands that completely encircle the body, the dau actsas an opening, a door or pathway through which spirit entities.
Traditionally, women were the primary weavers of baskets, but Pomo men made certain types of woven containers and devices, such as the open twined burden basket, woodpecker and other traps, and baby cradle baskets. The baby sits, wrapped in soft coverings, in a Pomo cradle basket, which can be carried on the mother's back or hung near her workplace.