Crossing the Centuries
Cured Elymus Mollis
(Wild Beach Rye Grass)
This knob-top basket was made in part from wild beach rye grass (Elymus Mollis) gathered by Chichinoff-Thadei. After it is harvested, this grass needs 6 to 8 weeks to cure, and then a full year before it mellows enough to weave. Each strand is then split into 6 strands, and woven.
Chichinoff-Thadei uses wild grasses from around Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon and California, which ripen in different seasons. These grasses are harvested with the aid of apprentices or fellow weavers from the ecologically fragile series of bird resting sites between Cook Inlet in Alaska and California. Each site is part of the great Pacific coast migratory flyway and part of the artist’s migration as an Aleut woman harvesting grasses.
She and other traditional weavers are finding it increasingly difficult to find clean grasses on their travels, as pollution both weakens and dulls the grass. “In the old days, the grass had a shiny luminescence that lasted for centuries. We rarely find that nowadays,” she says.