Hopi Basketry techniques and uses


Last Updated: 20 years

Hopi Basketry techniques and uses.. KEYWORDS: hopi basketry uses for hopi baskets plaited baskets wicker baskets coiled baskets rabbit brush basket sumac basket coiled baskets second mesa third mesa hopi trays hopi plaques hopi wedding traditions hopi bowls burden basket hopi peach basket

Three basic techniques, plaiting, wicker, and coiling, are employed by Hopi basket weavers. More than one method is sometimes used in making a single basket, providing an array of visual effects.

Each technique calls for certain plant materials. Wicker baskets are made from sivaapi (rabbit brush) and suuvi (sumac), while plaited baskets are made from siwi (dune brush) and suuvi. Coiled baskets are woven with mo:’vi(yucca) and sivaapi. Other organic materials are sometimes used as substitutes, but all are gathered from the natural vegetation in northern Arizona.

Hopi Second Mesa Coiled Basket

Basketry specialization between the Hopi mesas probably occurred in the 1800s. Coiled baskets became the speciality of Second Mesa, and wicker became the speciality of Third Mesa. These specializations remain, although plaiting is in use throughout the mesas. In this way, all Hopi basketry shares a distinct style grounded in Hopi tradition stretching back many centuries into the past.

Continuation of the long tradition of basketry demonstrates the importance of basketry in Hopi culture. Baskets are used in many activities on the mesas and are sold to visiting art collectors and tourists. Different types of baskets have unique uses. The most common categories of baskets are plaques, trays, and bowls, serving a variety of everyday and ceremonial functions.

Hopi Third Mesa Wicker Basket

Plaques are either coiled or wicker, and trays are most often plaited twill. As a part of the wedding ceremony, plaques are traditionally made by the bride’s family for the groom’s family. These plaques are repayment for the bridal robes woven by the men of the groom’s family. Tray varieties include peach trays used for sifting parched corn and piki trays used to serve or carry piki, the paper-thin, traditional Hopi bread made from blue corn meal.

Bowls, deep form baskets such as burden baskets, are woven by using coiling or wicker techniques. The burden baskets once woven by men were used to haul loads on the back of a person or animal. Peach baskets were commonly used to carry fruit up the mesas. And, a third type of bowl shaped basket is the wastebasket, a result of market demand.

While some functions of baskets in Hopi life have remained the same for many years, clearly new functions have also developed. Like the Hopi people, themselves, functions of basketry are grounded in traditions of the past and are selectively adaptive to the changes of today.