Native American Basktry, Part 2

While trading baskets to other native groups had a long tradition, the arrival of the collector introduced to the weavers the novel opportunity to make baskets "for sale" to non-natives who brought a new set of motivations for acquiring Native American basketry. An article written for the Placer Herald by a San Franciscan in 1891 remarks on the birth of the new craze of collecting such baskets, calling it "the latest fad among artistic people." Certainly, this fad (which continues to this day) posed a unique, if not puzzling, circumstance for the weavers who were amused by these people who paid good money for the old, often used baskets while overlooking the newer pieces.

As collectors became more discerning about the quality of a basket's weave as well as exhibiting a preference for particular types of designs and basketry shapes, the weavers responded to this new market. Such graceful and distinctive shapes such as bottleneck baskets and more literal design elements such as human figures or animal forms (as opposed to the often more sophisticated, abstract designs) were in great demand in the early collector market. However, these basketry shapes and design motifs were only produced by a few tribal groups and then only occasionally. Thus, borrowing of shapes and motifs from other tribal groups became, if not commonplace, at least an acceptable practice among some of the weavers. This phenomenon ushered in a new period of experimentation and creativity while maintaining the on-going high standards of technical and artistic expertise.