Melinda West – Northwest Plant-Fiber Artist
I’ve been fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest with my family where the natural beauty and wild places are close at hand. My work sprouted from an interest in learning the traditional fiber technologies practiced by the First Peoples of this place. So I’ve been incredibly fortunate to study with many native and non-native weavers and artists over the past thirty years, the foremost being Ed Carriere of the Suquamish Tribe.
Some of my basketry and art pieces are created as a way to explore, experiment, and acknowledge the beauty of the native plants I love to grow and gather. My more traditional work is made from the desire to preserve the knowledge and techniques that honor the contributions of local First Peoples communities, who have developed this art form I practice, and many other traditional art forms derived from the landscape. My Harvest baskets and trellises are made for utility and function in the garden. Some of my work is created with whimsy, in an effort to devise, or invent, interesting ways to recycle man-made, and/or, weedy invasive plants, to keep them out of the burn pile or waste stream.
For me, the art of plant fiber weaving has become a doorway into the cultural and ecological knowledge of the place I live. It brings me joy to be part of the continuum of practicing this traditional art form. When I am invited to teach at environmental learning centers, or in traditional classrooms, I am always a student. I am listening too, and I cherish the perspectives of each person I meet. The ancient and universal qualities of this art form; the wild places I experience as I gather the materials; and the inventive aspects of weaving; help me to find meaning, as I work with the generous plant-gifts of the Pacific Northwest landscape.
A Gatherers Creed:
Gather with respect.
Take only what you can use.
Prune to encourage growth.
Read More: Suquamish Basket Marsh