Ojibwe Artist In Residence April Stone Demonstrates the Art of Black Ash Basketry
Bad River Ojibwe artist April Stone demonstrates the making of both traditional and contemporary black ash baskets, from the pounding of a debarked ash log to the delicate weaving of narrow strips of wood into beautiful and utilitarian works of art. Ms. Stone will also demonstrate the art of birch bark basket making.
“Among the Anishnabe (Ojibwe) is a legend of how a man named Black Elk was concerned for his people. Nearing the end of his life, he worried about his people’s restlessness. He wanted to give them something to help them provide for their families and teach them the patience they needed. Black Elk asked Creator what could be done to help his people. Creator instructed him to have his people cremate his remains after he died. Out of the ashes, a sacred tree would grow. That tree was the black ash, which the people were told to protect until it was fully-grown. Then they cut down the mature tree with appropriate equipment, thanks to Creator. They stripped the bark, then used heavy mallets to pound the trunk until the soft summer growth was crushed. What remained was the harder spring and winter growth. This they cut away into strips and then, with great skill and workmanship, they created baskets of great beauty. They learned patience by waiting for the trees to mature, preparing the wood, and weaving the strips into all kinds of useful baskets to trade for things the people needed. For thousands of years, the Anishnabe have used black ash trees to create baskets for every purpose including drying herbs, storing food, harvesting crops, and hauling beaver traps and felts. But like many traditional crafts, true black ash basketmaking is rarely practiced because cheap substitute materials require none of the painstaking labor.”
— From an article about April's work in the Chicago Tribune
April Stone is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa/Ojibwe and lives in a rural wooded area on the shores of Lake Superior. She began weaving black ash baskets in 1999. She was so impressed with how the baskets held up to daily abuse, that the material earned her respect and she began weaving utilitarian baskets. Through the years she searched for other native basket weavers in the area, which historically had many, but found only a few and many were not currently weaving. She came to realize she was the only ash basket weaver making baskets in her band and among just a hand full in all of the northern Chippewa/Ojibwe in Wisconsin. Starting with the hand gathered and prepared raw material, April weaves baskets that are meant for use and takes great pride in her work. Besides teaching from her studio, she teaches ash basketry in her community on the Bad River reserve and in the neighboring reserves, and at different venues through out northern Wisconsin and Michigan.
Madeline Island Museum
Madeline Island Museum, 226 Colonel Woods Ave
The museum, composed of three historic island structures and the modern Capser Center, contains exhibits detailing Wisconsin history from 17th-century exploration and the era of the fur trade to the arrival of summer tourists, known as cottagers, in the early 20th century.
Reasonable accommodations will be made for individuals requiring wheelchairs for mobility. Call ahead to make arrangements.