Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
December 11, 1999

Nancy Basket-Contemporary Cherokee Artist
by Garnet1654

Nancy Basket takes her name from the work she does, as did her great-great-great grandmother, Margaret Basket, a Southeastern Cherokee basket maker in the early 1800s. Nancy has been coiling baskets since 1981. Her baskets have been used to illustrate numerous books as examples of coiled basket diversity. Nancy's baskets were used for the movies, "Young Indiana Jones" and "Last of the Mohicans." The University of Wyoming Art Museum chose Nancy's Cherokee pine-needle cradle board to tour selected cities throughout the United States.

In order to learn tribal traditions first hand and to live among the long-leaf pine-needle trees from which she coils her baskets, Nancy moved from her Washington state home to reside near the Cherokee, N.C reservation.

Nancy also discovered the artistic use of the "notorious" kudzu. She first made small note enclosures of handmade kudzu paper for her baskets. She harvests the kudzu, processes and dyes...all by hand. After experimenting with kudzu, Nancy discovered the color and design possibilities as unlimited as the vine itself. She now produces unique and lively kudzu wall art depicting traditional quilt patterns as well as the designs and stories that reflect her Native American heritage.

Kudzu Turtle by Nancy Basket

A native of the Orient, kudzu vine grows 12 inches daily!!!! Orientals use every part of the plant. Kudzu roots, weighing up to 400 pounds are ground into powder and used as a thickener for cooking. Vines are processed and exported as grass-cloth wallpaper and are woven into expensive clothing--once used as a gift for emperors. Leaves have been used for hundreds of years in medicinal teas and a wide variety of foods. The purple flowers smell like grape bubble gum and are used in jell-making.

In the 1920's, kudzu was imported to the southern U.S. as a ground cover and erosion control. Today, because of it's prodigious, unchecked growth, it's considered a menace. Nancy hopes to change folks opinions about kudzu from a maligned and laughed-at weed into a new and inexhaustible source of tree-free paper.

Find out more about kudzu
ANR-65 Kudzu In Alabama

VA NHP Kudzu Fact Sheet

cabin in winter

cabin in summer covered with kudzu

roadside covered in kudzu

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