Work of the Week – January 12, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

by Sadie Barner

Eva_WolfeThis week’s Work of the Week is this basket: River Cane Purse Basket by Eva Wolfe.

Eva Wolfe was born in 1922 in Soco, Qualla Boundary, North Carolina. She started her craft at an early age. She started learning basket weaving from her mother. Shortly after starting high school her aunt, Lottie Queen Stamper, started teaching her how to make double weave baskets. She continued to learn and make baskets until she was in her mid-30’s. She then realized that she was one of only two adult women who still knew how to do the rivercane double weave. After that realization, she set about trying to preserve the tradition and has been very successful.

The process to make these baskets is not an easy one. Eva Wolfe and her husband drove 80 miles from home to cut down rivercane. They did this by hand with a bush knife. Each trip gave Wolfe enough rivercane for several months. Afterwards, Wolfe had to split and prepare the rivercane. Each stalk created four strips and each basket needed about 120 strips of rivercane. She then needed to gather blood root and butternut for creating dyes. Next, the rivercane was dyed by soaking it in a tub. Final, the actual weaving could begin. About half the time it took Wolfe to make these baskets was spent doing these preparation tasks.

Wolfe was a very busy woman. She raised 11 children while keeping up with the house, gardening and, of course, making baskets. She used the basketry to help support her family. While doing all this, she helped revive a Cherokee tradition. She has won many awards at the Annual Cherokee Fair. Her work was first exhibited in 1968 in an exhibit sponsored by the US Department of the Interior. She was even awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts which helped her secure more materials for baskets.

After hearing Eva Wolfe’s biography, her work became very inspiring for me. The basket is completely hand crafted, from collecting the materials to completion. The craftsmanship is amazing and the intricate patterns from the weaving are beautiful. The fact that she handmade hundreds of baskets while raising 11 children is astonishing. Not only are Wolfe’s baskets technically sound but they are works of art all on their own. All of Wolfe’s baskets are unique and decorative. Each one took hours of labor and they all hold their own story. Wolfe inspires me to see what more I can do with my own life and artwork.

Artwork above: Eva Wolfe, River Cane Purse Basket, River Cane with Walnut Dye, 13.25 x 3.5 x 8.5 inches. 2011.24.01.58.