I just returned from Ottawa, Canada where I participated in a conference on the conservation of Aboriginal heritage. It was a wonderful conference filled with mutual respect and a diversity of ideas. While in Ottawa, I stayed at the "Jail Hostel." It's pretty much like it sounds: an old jail that has been converted into a youth hostel. We slept in jail cells, complete with bars for doors. It was a fun place, but I'm very happy to be back in my own (comfortable) bed!
The last day of the conference held a number of workshops on traditional techniques. I chose to learn Inuit grass sewing--a type of coiled basketry. Our instructor was from Rigolet, Labrador, and learned this technique as a child in school. The grass we used is native to her area, and was picked for us by one of her neighbors. It starts by sewing one piece of grass around a knot made from three others:As the coil builds, you continue to add grass to the inner bundle, and work thin pieces around the inner bundle--both to hide it, and anchor the coil to the previous rounds:
After a full-day workshop I made a very tiny basket. Learning these techniques gives you a genuine appreciation for the amount of time and work it takes to create these objects.