Peggy Sanders Shelden

Basket weaving became a passion in my mind before I had patterns or weaving skills.   I began basket weaving by studying Cherokee symbols, and making graphs of combinations of symbols to make pleasing patterns.  After completing a basket, I often return to the graphs I have created to find inspiration for my next work.

When I weave the old symbols into new baskets, I am reminded that my grandmother and those before her wove the same repetitive shapes. My identity is shaped by my basket weaving activities just as my grandmother’s identity and role in her tribe was formed by basket weaving. Our reasons for weaving differ, but the fulfillment from weaving is the same. 

While I research and weave, I find new areas of interest.  In studying techniques of other tribes, I find that the looping or knotless netting and twining techniques are very pleasing to me. Finding a new source of material in linen and polished cotton cords, I began experimenting making twined vessels, and embellishing gourds using soft fibers and the new techniques. I also process and weave into twined vessels flax leaves and spruce roots.   I am energized while also relaxed to the repetitive movements making intricate designs. What began as weaving traditional Cherokee twill baskets has evolved to include soft sculptural shapes, and various looping techniques on my ink stained gourds.  As I experiment with mediums for inking my gourds, I also find mediums to color my wood splints in my twill baskets. I consciously use both traditional and innovative techniques, but my work is often a process determined by the unconscious. As I become more comfortable with unfamiliar processes, my new areas of interest continually arise and lead to my next project. 

Weaving baskets in traditional ways of tribes requires study of plants for weaving and dyes.  Alarmed by stories from native basket weavers about effects on their health from processing plants sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals, my interest in sustainability of plants leads me to engage with the national forestry service personnel, Palo Indian weavers, and the California native basket guild as well as other organizations.  As I focus on art in multiple forms using woods, vines, gourds and flowers, I endeavor to take the society to more emotional fulfilling levels for sustainability. By my art, I choose to initiate citizen awakenment and engagement.  Wado to my creator for these gifts