Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day of Remembrance and Paper Baskets

On Feb. 19, 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, requiring all persons of Japanese American ancestry removed from the west coast.  Over 120,000 people, mostly U.S. citizens, were sent to internment camps in the interior and eastern U.S.
Many people spent the next 3 to 4 years in an internment camp, far from home.  To pass the time, some turned to gardening, writing, music, arts and crafts.

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to see an exhibit The Art of Gaman, Arts and Crafts from the Japanese Internment camps, 1942-46 at the history museum in Portland.  It featured artwork done by internees, who had few art supplies, and relied on things like cast off wood, wire, paper, string,  shells, and more to create their art.  Photos of those items, including several baskets, are in the book, same title, by Delphine Hirasuna.

I posted the photo below on my facebook page last month.  The description says that it was made of crepe paper and wire. 

A Eugene friend is organizing a Day of Remembrance event, and asked me to make a replica to go with an art show.

I decided to copy a different crepe paper basket, described as a woven vessel.  I can't show you the photo of the original without violating copyright laws, however the basket is in the link above, p. 23, in the foreground.

I did some research, but could only guess on how they were made.  Did the basketweavers buy the crepe paper 'rope' like these ebay items from the 1920's,

  or cut and spin it themselves?  Perhaps they had seen this little booklet from Deniston?

 Baskets were given a coat of shellac to make them more suitable for flower arrangements, so I gave mine a coat, too.

Even though the design looks simple, it wasn't easy or fun working with the crepe paper and wire.  I eventually ended up changing my basket's weave pattern because it was too frustrating trying to replicate the original.  It made me respectful of the weaver's resourcefulness and determination.

So many people don't know about the internment camps, especially young students.   It's an important period of American history, hopefully, not to be forgotten or repeated.

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