Fran and Bill James

Fran and Bill James

In a day and age when the priorities placed on human activity are evaluated in terms of efficiency and timeliness, weavers Fran James or Che top ie, and her son Bill James or Tsi’li’xw, of the Xwlemi Xwilmexw (Indian) Nation are among those who partake in a time-honored, meticulous creative art form without compromising the processes of hand-producing their craft.

Fran James, born and raised on Lummi, Washington, came from a long line of basket weavers, including her grandmother and all of her aunts, and created countless baskets throughout her long weaving career. Fran, whose work has been featured in numerous publications and documentaries, is among the most well-known basket weavers of the Pacific Northwest. Her work has inspired many younger people to take up basketry, and she taught weaving and shared her values with many students.  Fran passed away in May 2013 at the age of 88.

When Bill James was a teenager, his great aunt taught him to weave baskets in the traditional Coast Salish style.  He later learned to weave wool while studying at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  He has now been weaving baskets and blankets, as well as carving looms and spindle whorls, for over thirty years.  Bill teaches students to carry on the traditional arts of weaving and spinning wool through classes at the Northwest Xwilmexw (Indian) College.

“Weaving, to me personally, is—as I look at it—weaving the fabric of our lives together.  Remembering what used to be, and what is being lost. I utilize my natural resource, my Mother, (Chetopie Fran James) who has been a spinner of wools for all my life.  If it weren’t for her I might not be doing what we are doing. Time marches on and people don’t do things like what we used to do. We take pride in what we do, and are glad people appreciate what we do. Tsi’ li’ xw.” – Bill James, Lummi Tribal Member.

Artist’s Statement – Bill James

Bill James passed away June 1, 2020. He was 75.