Julia Parker, Coast Miwok-Kashaya Pomo basket maker, carries the stories of baskets in her hands. A prolific artist, teacher, and storyteller, she makes baskets that carry the stories of an older California, of bracken fern patch and sedge bed, of all the Native women through the generations who gathered willow together.
But this book isn’t just a book about baskets; this collection of Parker’s flowing reminiscences falls somewhere between a spoken memoir that twists and winds with the beauty of coiled root, and a poetic tribute to the living traditions of California Indian women over the last two hundred years. Julia Parker stands a the heart of these strands, a woman who has reached up and down the state with her strong hands, learning and sharing traditional knowledge of basketry with Paiute, Kashaya Pomo, Yosemite Miwok/Paiute, and non-Indian alike. From delicate Easter baskets to cooking vessels for heating acorn flour, from accounts of boarding school to the proper ways to gather sedge root, this wise, wry, and deeply moving book will take you right into the heart of California.
Alongside Parker’s sensitively photographed work, her words are stitched throughout with textile artist and scholar Deborah Valoma’s essays on the historical and philosophical implications of basketry from a non-Native perspective. Basing her work on rigorous scholarship and a long-term personal relationship between author and artist, Valoma peels back cultural assumptions about Native America basketry to reveal the relevance of Parker’s embodied philosophies of thinking and making in the twenty-first century.