Taos Art School
“To keep tradition alive,” Larry Croslin replies when asked why he practices the ancient and meticulous art of basket making. Using traditional materials only, he plaits together containers which provide a vital thread of continuity with his Cherokee ancestors.
Split-oak baskets were once in constant demand on the farms and plantations of the Cherokee in their ancestral North Carolina and Georgia lands and later in their adopted Oklahoma. Loads were carried on the back in pack-baskets, and baskets served as containers for clothing and other household goods. Peck and bushel baskets were used for storing, measuring, and preparing farm products. Smaller-sized, split-oak baskets were receptacles for food or seeds, for straining berries, and for sifting and hulling pounded corn.
Cherokee baskets were woven in a twilled, plaited weave of two-, three-, or four-under-and-over techniques using buckbrush, rivercane, white oak, and honeysuckle. Honeysuckle, a plant introduced to North America by European settlers, replaced the traditional buckbrush two hundred years ago. Split rivercane and white oak have both been used for centuries by the Cherokee.
Larry Croslin painstakingly prepares buckbrush, rivercane, and honeysuckle for use in his baskets. He has revitalized the use of split-white oak among the Oklahoma Cherokee, who, unlike the North Carolina Cherokee, had abandoned its use for reasons Larry does not know. The small white oak trees must be cut, split, and riveted into strips before they can be woven.
Cherokee weavers have taught Croslin how to harvest and prepare vegetal dyes for the traditional colors of Cherokee basket designs. He uses blood-root for orange, black walnut hulls for brown, and osage orange heartwood or roots for yellow.
After two years in Germany with the U.S. Army, Larry came home to Oklahoma. For fifteen years he wove sporadically, then in 980 apprenticed himself to a Cherokee weaver. Other weavers provided additional guidance and encouragement. He has conducted workshops for Five Tribes’ peoples and during the past five years has won numerous awards for his baskets, including several at the Santa Fe Indian Market. He is the father of three girls, who have also learned to weave.
Larry Croslin views himself as carrying on a centuries-old tradition. Indeed, to listen to him is to understand the reverence he holds for his teachers and for the art of Cherokee basket making. His own legacy will be the many students he has taught – and will teach – and his infectious enthusiasm for his work.
TAOS ART SCHOOL
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