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California Karuk twined cup and saucer

20th Century
20th Century
2 3/4 in. x 3 3/4 in. (6.99 cm x 9.53 cm)

Native American, Native American

Object Type: Baskets
Creation Place: North America, United States, California
Medium and Support: Hazel or willow warp shoots; conifer root weft; woodwardia fern dyed with alder bark, bear grass and maidenhair fern overlay materials; string
Credit Line: Gift of Laurette Schorcht in honor of Doris Dennison, Music Director, Dance Dept. 1939-1972
Accession Number: 1997.14.8.ab
Technique: Twined basketry teacup and saucer. Half-twist overlay, no overlay shows through to the interior of the cup or to the exterior of the saucer. Mostly woodwardia overlay, making it a “red” basket and in all likelihood Karuk. Bear grass and maidenhair fern are used as accents for the design.

Design: There are maidenhair fern stripes, which is a design element more commonly seen on “red” baskets from the Karuk.

Structure: This is a stunning example of a true master weaver at work. It’s clearly a trinket for a collector but it’s so finely done. The weave is strong, the overlay is exceptional. I really think it could potentially be the work of Nettie Ruben (1870s – 1957), a renowned Karuk weaver. Her work is well documented in Ron Johnson’s books and in the Clarke Museum of Eureka’s records. I have seen a teacup so similar to this one made by her in one of Ron Johnson’s catalogs, see citation – which got me wondering if it’s hers (if it was made prior to 1957) or a student of hers if it’s more contemporary. I also noticed it has these tiny string tie offs on the end of the weaving on the cup and saucer to keep from unravelling perhaps (we could look at other examples of Nettie Ruben’s work to see if that’s her style?). Also just want to note that no one would ever actually drink from it, it was certainly made for a collector.

Cultural affiliation notes: The record states “Karuk” and I think it would be very accurate to assume that’s correct. The dominance of the woodwardia fits with Karuk, but I’d be curious how the donor came to know it was Karuk specifically, perhaps they knew a little more about where they acquired it. Specifically relating to learning the maker.

Citation: Johnson, Ron, Coleen Kelley Marks, and Susie Van Kirk. Made for the Trade: Native American Baskets of Northwest California, exhibition catalog. Eureka: Times Printing, 2012.

Jesse Dutton-Kenny, Visiting Researcher, October 26th - 27th & 29th - 30th, 2020

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