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A California Craze

A California Craze image
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The latest fad or craze In California, specially in the southern portion, ís to Kssess a collection of Indian baskets. It s the correct thing, and some of the raast artistic homes in the state have rooms ecorated with them. Who started the razo is uot known, but some one discovred that the baskets possessed great rtistic beauty, were rich in harmonious coloring and fórmed attractive ornaments or library and parlor, and tho demand jegan. It was the old story of new lamps or old, and dealers and others went round the country exchangiug new modrn baskets for the old ones of the Spansh and Mexican families. Tho baskets are exhausted, at least the ld ones. being now in the hands of a few collectors and others who will not sell hem. The baskets cost from $1.50 to $3 sually, . nd bring from $10 to $r0 apiece. Jnless the reader bas seen some of these works of barbarie art this price will seem xcessive, but the graceful shape, the rich jrowD tints. the age and association, give liem a valué appreciated by those who ïave engaged in their collectioii. tSie heapest way to make a collection is to go o some collector and buy their baskets utright, but the most pleasurable method s to tak e a carriage and go about the ountry among the Indians and Mexicans nd buy them one 's self. Many of the nest baskets come from the Indians orth of San Francisco, and others have een collected in Los Angeles, San Diego nd San Bernardlno counties In the later coalities are the remnants of the Mision Indians, hidden away in the mounains at Pala. Pauma and at Pachanza. EXTÏÏ1UENCES OF TQE COLLECTOR. The experiences of the amateur basket pollector are varied, and no better way la whicb to study the habits of the present Indiaas can be found. The suceessful basket fiend must have what is popularly kuown as "cheek;" must walk into the bedrooms and private apartments, insist upon trunks beiag opened and contents shown. This may seem a high handed prooeeding, but it is necessary, as even while the people wish to sell they, in the majority of cases, say at first that they have no baskets, and when they are produced do not wish to sell on account of the ancient aunt or grandparent who has handed them down. If, however, the would be purchaser has the staying power the basket can be secured. The sellers generally believe the Americaus to be great fools for paying such prices. A halfbreed informed the writer that the people were crazy and would give anything; and with a laugh, he said: "Tbey pay five times as much for the old ones as they do for the new." That a basket which they use to sift their flour in eould serve as an ornament is bevond their conception; yet this is the end to which these old ntensils are put. They are tacked against the walls to show the figures or color, or hung over doors or in corners. The largo ones find a place near the fire to hold the wood, while others are distributed about the library for papers and magazines; indeed, their usefulness grows upon one. The finest collectious are photographed by their owners and make a fine and artistic showing. It is as an art that the work of these ieople commends itself, not alone in the 'orm of the baskets, but in the marking and arrangement of colors; and that sueh artistio feeling should be found among seople whose ideas of art, as we recognize t, are of the crudest description, is remarkable. After so many years of association with white people it would not appear strange if sonie of their ideas of omamentation were obtained from them, yet this is extremely rare. All the omamentation is unique, possessing an individuality that cannot be mistaken. The lines are often graceful and of great geometrical beauty, radiating from the center. A conimon design is a series of triangular or arrow shaped figures worked into radiating Unes. Some seem to represent liashes of lightning in the zigzag motion Human figures worked in, often extending completely around the basket, with clasped hands, are seen in some of the best baskets, whüe deer and other animáis are sometimes introduced. The colors are usually dull reds or browns, yellows and black, and in almost every Lase the blending is harmonious. Where these people obtain their ideas is an interestmg question, but probably from nature - the foliage, the bending grasses, etc, suggesting the lines of grace and beauty. METHODS OF BASKET MAKING. It is not necessary to go far from the centers of civüization to see basket makets. The Diggers produce beautiful baskets not far from San Francisco, while the Indians about Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and other localities still make coarse ones in the sanie primitiva way. The basket work of the California Indians is valuable in several ways. It is characteristic of the different tribes, and they can be traced by it. Some baskets are beautifully ornamented with feathers, and this shows that they were made by the Indians north of San Francisco. One for which a large sum was recently paid is ornamented with the red feathers of the woodpeeker, while around the edge are the plumes of the plumed quail. The feathers are woven in while the basket is being made. Fineness and age are two important qualifications. The Califoruia Indians employ two .general methods in basket making; the coil is either twined or whipped. The Diggers, as before stated, produce fine baskets of great beauty, while the Klamath and McCloud Indians make twined baskets so fine that they can be used to hold water. In the baskets from the Eel river tribe a doublé coil is used. The Modoo vromen produce some beautiful shapes. We see cones, inverted truncated cones, shallow dishes, some like hats or half eggs, vases, long and narrow, others flat, with short necks. Plaques are common, while some baskets are almost perfect spheres. Many of these are made of willow slips and pine roots, stained in the southern county with nail rust The material used mostly by the California Indians is the plant known scientifically as "rhus aromática," or squaw berry In the houses or ramadas of basketmakers the raw material is seen - twigs cut and scraped, eight or ten inches In length and tied together with a string. They are dyed with plants and nail rust. Young girls can be Been soaking the twigs and scrapiug off the bark ready for the oíd women to use. The old baskets may be considerad a lost art, and comparativelv few modern ones are being made,


Ann Arbor Argus
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