My parents bought me my first Tohono O'Odham basket. My mother is an artist herself and recognized its quality despite its seeming plainness. On trips to The Desert Rain Cafe in Sells, Arizona, in the Tohono O'Odham nation, we always stopped at the little gallery next door and admired more of the lovely baskets. Most of these were more intricate than the one my parents bought, made to attract collectors rather than be utilitarian. My husband admired an exquisite basket, but we couldn't afford it. Over the next 18 months, whenever we went to the cafe he went to see if the basket had sold. It hadn't. Finally Rhonda Wilson, the manager of the gallery, said to him, "It's your basket. No one has bought it because it belongs to you. It's calling to you. I'll put it on layaway and you can pay a little each time you come." It took a year but now we own that magnificent basket, made by Sadie Marks, and treasure it. An almost identical piece by Sadie is on display in the Santa Fe Museum of American Indian Arts and Culture and another is at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Whenever I look at this basket I am astonished by Sadie's expertise and artistry. How did she make the design symmetrical? How did she do that open-weave section? How does she make her stitches so even? The answer lies partly in Sadie's natural ability and partly in the three Ps: practice, persistence, and patience, lots of patience.
Besides the gift of pleasure in its beauty, this basket has given me two other gifts. One is the gift of friendship with Rhonda. She is teaching me to weave baskets and is thrilled at my interest and progress. I've sat beside Rhonda and her husband Art for hours, weaving and learning. If we can coordinate our busy schedules, one day Rhonda would like to take me out into the desert to show me how to collect the materials for these baskets.
The second gift this basket has given me is the gift of a story. See that spider in the middle? A girl thrust her way into my mind and said, I have a story, I want it told. Spider Girl. I don't yet know how to tell her story, but I will try to find a way. In the meantime I keep another spider basket on my desk at work - this one made by Marion Cruz and shown in the photo below - and I weave because by weaving I can get a little way into Spider Girl's mind. My most recent basket (the third one I have finished) is on the right. It's made from bear grass (the coils), white yucca and devil's claw (the dark stitches). Below them are four more baskets. The big one shows I'itoi above a maze (here is an explanation of that design) and I can't begin to imagine how many hours it took to make. The middle basket shows the coyote tracks design, and the basket on the right is the original one my parents bought me. At the bottom of the page are links to more information about Tohono O'Odham baskets.