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Lidded baskets

Elizabeth Hickox (Wiyot/Karuk, 1875–1947), lidded baskets
ca. 1920
Maidenhair fern, spruce root, hazel shoots, porcupine quills
13 x 11 cm; 21 x 20 cm; 12.5 x 15 cm
Bequest of Mary H. Davis; gift of Mrs. Marcella Klein Wasson; purchased from Mrs. Thyra Maxwell
22/1927, 25/3, 24/4103

“I have a black and white basket half made now And I shall send it to you as soon as I’ve finished it…. I was over to the Indian dance but I dident get to see any pretty baskets over there so did not get any. I am as ever Your Friend. Mrs. Luther Hickox.”
—Elizabeth Hickox, October 3, 1911, from a letter to Grace Nicholson.

Elizabeth Hickox is considered one of the finest basket-weavers of her time. She lived along the Salmon River in Northern California and wove with her daughter, Louisa. The creation of a basket was a yearlong process not limited to weaving. Each material would be gathered at a specific time, then prepared and sorted for later incorporation into a basket. Elizabeth wove only with materials with which she could produce the finest product. She favored the dark contrast of five-fingered fern (Adiantum aleuticum) with porcupine quills dyed bright yellow with wolf lichen (Letharia vulpina). From 1911 to 1934, Elizabeth wove about five baskets a year.

Most of the baskets Elizabeth produced were not for functional use—cooking and ceremony—but were made as objects of art meant for display. These would be sold to dealers and local tourists to generate income. While utilitarian baskets carried only simple design elements and traditional forms, baskets marketed for sale possessed elaborate designs and innovative forms in order to attract buyers. Unlike many of the basket-weavers of the time who wove for local sale, Elizabeth sold her works to Grace Nicholson, a dealer in Pasadena who marketed the baskets to wealthy collectors across the country.

Elizabeth continued to weave gift baskets even after the market for baskets dwindled. This, along with the care she put into each piece, reflects the love she felt for her art.

—Erin Rentz (Karuk), botanist, U.S. Forest Service

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