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Fiberarts - January/February 2010
January/February 2010

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Fiber-postcard valentine contest info
More examples of Lisa Klakulak’s work from start to finish.
More work from our Sampling artists.
How Lisa Telford Harvests Cedar Bark and Her Traditional Pre-Contact Clothing and Basketry.
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January/February 2010

How Lisa Telford Harvests Cedar Bark and Her Traditional Pre-Contact Clothing and Basketry

Our January/February 2010 issue features artist Lisa Telford, who weaves baskets, hats, and traditional pre-contact clothing from the bark of red and yellow cedar trees. Telford creates her work by employing the materials and techniques of traditional Haida weaving. The Haida people historically live and work on the Queen Charlotte Islands, located off the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. Telford, who is descended from generations of Haida weavers, begins the weaving process by venturing into the mountains and harvesting the cedar bark herself. Here, Telford shares the process by which she gathers the cedar bark needed for her projects and examples of her traditional garments.

Harvesting Cedar Bark

Lisa Telford's Granddaughter harvesting red cedar

Telford’s granddaughter Alecia Groce at age 7. Alecia is taking the outer bark off red cedar strip pulled by Telford’s son-in-law Josh Hobelman. Photo: Selina Hobelman.

Before weaving can begin, the harvesting must be done. Once a year, in the spring, I harvest red and yellow cedar bark to use in my basketry and traditional pre-contact clothing.

To harvest the cedar, I travel up the mountain to elevations of two thousand feet or higher. I am looking for a tree with limbs beginning twenty feet or higher, so I will get a nice long piece of bark without limb holes. The tree must be healthy, straight, and the bark not twisting.

I thank the tree for giving me her beautiful clothing. I remind the tree, she will live on in clothing and basketry for all to admire. The process begins: cutting through the outer bark down to the wood, making two vertical slits two fingers apart. I now have a narrow strip of bark still attached to the tree, which I cut horizontally in between my two cuts. I pry up the bark and pull it off the tree. The bark will pull off the tree about ten to fifteen feet long. This strip is called the road; it sets the path of the next strip. The next strip will be the width of my hand and pull off twenty to thirty feet long; a third strip will be even longer.

The next step is to remove the outer bark from the actual material I will be using. Starting at the top of the strip, I gently pull up the inner bark until the outer bark is completely off. I roll the bark and store it in a plastic bag to prevent drying. When I return home, I split the bark into two layers, depending on use, roll it, and hang it to dry for one to two weeks. The bark is stored for one year before use. This entire process takes three days. It is enough material to keep me busy weaving for six months.

Traditional Pre-Contact Clothing

Stone Grid Cuff

Twined Hat, 2006; red and yellow cedar bark; twined; 6" x 14". Photo: Jerry McCollum.

Stone Grid Cuff

Canoe Cape, 2001; red cedar bark, cotton cordage, spun yellow cedar cordage, sea otter fur trim; pounded and softened red cedar bark, cooked thigh spun yellow cedar cordage, woven; 21" x 44"(bottom) x 14"(top). Photo: Jerry McCollum.

Stone Grid Cuff

Dance Apron; red cedar bark, yellow cedar two strand twine, sea otter fur, deer toes; pounded red cedar bark, cooked and thigh spun yellow cedar, woven; 16" x 22". Photo: Jerry McCullom.

Traditional Basketry

Stone Grid Cuff

Red Banded Women’s Work Basket, 2006; red and yellow cedar bark, red dye; two- and three-strand twined; 10" x 10 3/8". Photo by the artist.

Stone Grid Cuff

Twined Covered Rattle Top, 2003; red and yellow cedar bark, black and red dye; two- and three-strand twined; 3 3/8" x 3½". Photo by the artist.


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