June Erickson shows some of the pine needle baskets she’s created. Erickson and Neskonlith master basket maker Delores Purdaby will have their work on display during a special show and demonstration at the Salmon Arm Art Gallery on Thursday, Aug. 2. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)

Master the art of pine needle basket weaving

Weavers Delores Purdaby and June Erickson to share experience at Salmon Arm Art Gallery

The Salmon Arm Art Gallery will host Delores Purdaby and June Erickson for a pine needle basket weaving display and workshop on Thursday, Aug. 2.

A master basketry artist from the Neskonlith community of the Secwepemc Nation, Delores Purdaby has practiced as a customary artist for more four decades. In 2017, Purdaby was recognized for her work with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the B.C. Achievement Foundation (BCAF).

“Delores’ vast ecological and traditional knowledge – necessary for understanding when and where to harvest and how to process and finally use the materials pulled from nature into her baskets – is passed on to the many generations of Secwepemc she has gone on to mentor…,” states a BCAF release. “She adapts and innovates with each piece she creates, from her massive cedar root basket that took many years to create, to smaller works often sold or traded to support ceremonial and community activities. Delores’ dedication to her practice and mentorship of future generations is a valuable legacy for all, in B.C. and beyond.”

Related: Exhibition shares stories of Secwepemc Culture

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Erickson has been weaving intricate pine needle baskets for more than 30 years. The 85-year-old Salmon Arm resident said she discovered the hobby after suffering a heart attack that required her to step away from her nursing career.

“I felt it was the most artistic thing I’d done,” said Erickson. “I had painted all sorts of artsy things before, and this just appealed to me. You know how it is, you get doing something with your hands, some people like to carve and nothing else would take the place of it.”

Erickson says her baskets are largely decorative – larger pieces with more intricate stitching can take approximately 100 hours to produce.

“You can pick it up and set it down whenever you need to,” said Erickson. “There’s no pressure to keep on, keep on, it’s just once in a while if you want to keep the line going – you don’t want to lose the pattern.”

For her smaller baskets, she used Ponderosa pine needles between eight and 10 inches long. Longleaf pine needles, 12 to 15 inches, were used for larger baskets.

Erickson said most of her earlier baskets were given family as heirlooms or were sold privately. Over the years, however, she has taken on students.

“I would suggest that you start with the wheat stitch, experimenting with various shapes and sizes and then add other stitches that appeal to you,” writes Erickson in an instructional guide for would-be basket weavers. “An attractive mix of stitches certainly adds to the value of a basket, as does a variety of knobs and handles.”

Purdaby and Erickson will both be in attendance for the demonstration at the Salmon Arm Art Gallery, which runs from 4 to 6 p.m. The event is open to the public, with admission by donation.


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