Decorated Birch Bark Baskets
Awl: A pointed tool for making holes.
What are the nicknames for the place where you’re from? Do the people from your town or region have any nicknames for themselves? Where did the nicknames originate?
Have you ever seen a trillium? What other spring wildflowers grow near your home?
Can a beautiful object be useful too? If you think so, describe something that fits such a description. How is the object used and how it is beautiful?
Have you ever used natural materials from near your home to make something artistic or useful?
Describe an object in your home that is both artistic and practical.
As you explore this topic further, be aware of regional differences in style and technique. Plains tribes have a completely different process of quilling that involves slitting open the quill tube, flattening and plaiting it. Ojibwe technique uses the quill as a tubular whole, the same as Micmak and other Woodland tribes.
Find out more about Manitoulin Island, the largest fresh water island in the world.
There’s lots to know about birch bark baskets. Visit the Washington State University’s Museum of Anthropology to see the Baskets of Birch Bark exhibit.
Christine uses certain embroidery-like patterns when she sews quills onto birchbark. This page, Techniques and Patterns to Attach Quills to Birch Bark, describes seven of those patterns.
Christine gets most of the porcupine quills she uses from roadkill. But there are other ways to gather quills from a porcupine too. Plus, you use quills from different parts of the body for different purposes. Read about these and other points at Porcupine Quill Baskets.
Another traditional way of decorating birchbark is by biting patterns into it. Find out about this at Birch Bark Biting.
Here is a Lakota story about porcupine quillwork and The End of the World.
Read Paper Birch to find out more about these great trees in Wisconsin.
Text written by Rick March, edited by Jamie Yuenger and Anne Pryor.
Sources consulted include a tape recorded interview with Christine Okerlund by Carrie Kline (7/2/98), with the tape housed at the Wisconsin Arts Board.
Video footage from Wisconsin Folks, 1998, produced by Dave Erickson for Wisconsin Arts Board and Wisconsin Public Television.