Encounter the People

Hopi Basketry

Hopi Basketry Hopi Basketry Hopi Basketry Hopi Basketry

Hopi Basket
Photo (c) 2009 Michele Mountain
Museum of Northern Arizona
The Hopi have used baskets for utilitarian and ceremonial purposes for untold centuries. Twined basketry has been found in the American Southwest dating back to 7,000 BC  While the production and use of Hopi basketry had diminished considerably by the early twentieth century as a result of ready availability of mass-produced, non-Native goods and externally imposed prohibitions on ceremonial practice, it has persisted to today.

With the rapid growth of Southwest tourism in the early- to mid-twentieth century and the development of a collector’s market in Southwest Native American arts and crafts, new sales venues for Hopi basketry developed and flourished. Such market influences have sometimes resulted in slight innovations in form and technique; however, by and large, Hopi basket makers have deviated little from tradition. The practice of basket weaving continues, with basket makers producing plaques, bowls, and trays for collector and tourist markets as well as for ceremonial use.

Hopi Coil
Photo (c) 2009 Michele Mountain
Museum of Northern Arizona
Three construction methods, wicker (which includes twining), plaiting, and coiling, are used to create pieces bearing often-complex geometric and pictorial designs. In the past, Hopi women from all three mesas employed all of these methods. However, while plaiting is still practiced at all three mesas, coiled plaques and baskets are now produced solely at Second Mesa, and wicker has become the specialty of Third Mesa. Plaques and bowls are produced by wicker or coil techniques, and trays are predominantly plaited. Most Native groups produce coiled basketry by wrapping plant fibers around a semirigid rod. However, Hopi basketry is made with a central core composed of bundled plant material, around which a single piece of plant fiber is wrapped.

Hopi Weaving Basket
Photo (c) 2009 Michele Mountain
Museum of Northern Arizona
Hopi artists color their basketry materials with dyes from natural sources as well as with synthetic dyes. Sumac (suuvi) and rabbit brush (sivaapi) are used to make wicker baskets; sumac and dune brush (siwi) are used in plaited basketry; and coiled baskets are made with rabbit brush and yucca (mo:’vi). Yellow, red, and black are the most common colors used.

Wicker plaques—often colorfully dyed—are popular items among collectors of Hopi arts and crafts. They are used domestically at Hopi to hold foods, including ground corn, corn on the cob, and piki bread, and ceremonially to hold prayer sticks, prayer feathers, and bean sprouts. Wicker plaques figure prominently in Hopi wedding ceremonies and women’s ceremonial dances, and are given away at the Bean Dance and katsina dances. Both geometric forms and more representational imagery woven into wicker plaques bear symbolic significance, conveying important cultural values and beliefs.

Text (c) 2009 Jennifer McLerran, Ph.D., Curator of the Museum/Museum of Northern Arizona

Additional Information

Websites:

Hopi Basketry ( http://www.nau.edu )

Readings:
  • Bartlett, Katherine. Hopi Yucca Baskets. Museum of Northern Arizona, 1949.
  • Breuing, Robert, “Cultural Fiber: Function and Symbolism in Hopi Basketry.” In The Basket Weavers: Artisans of the Southwest, Plateau, vol. 53, no. 4 (1982): 8-13. Flagstaff, AZ: Museum of Northern Arizona.
  • Rhodes, Robert W. Hopi Wicker Plaques & Baskets. Schiffer Publishing, 2007.
  • McGreevy, Susan Brown. Indian Basketry Artists of the Southwest: Deep Roots, New Growth. School of American Research Press, 2001.
  • Northland Editors. Treasures of the Hopi. Northland Press, 1997.
  • Tanner, Clara Lee, Indian Baskets of the Southwest. University of Arizona Press, 1983.
  • Tanner, Clara Lee. “Southwestern Indian Basketry.” In The Art of Native Basketry: A Living Legacy. F.W. Porter, ed. Pp. 187-211. Greenwood Press, 1990.
  • Teiwes, Helga. Hopi Basket Weaving: Artistry in Natural Fibers. University of Arizona Press, 1996.
  • Whiteford, Andrew Hunter. Southwest Indian Baskets: Their History and Their Making. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 1988.