In order to make a basket it takes a year of preparation. The basket maker has to go out and cut back the sedge, willows, and other plant materials they are going to use. Certain songs have to be sung when asking the plants permission to use them. Good thought have to be present when taking care of the materials. Everything that you do is a reflection on you and how your basket will turn out.
Now a days basket weavers often have to ask private land owners if they can gather near riparian areas. The basket materials need to be collected throughout the year. The basket maker needs to be sure to only take what they need. Basket weavers often work in a trade network where hunters will trade feathers and other materials for the basket weaver to use. Many basket weavers only gather from certain spots where there family has gathered for several generations. Now a days basket weavers often don’t gather near the roads because the State Road crews spray pesticides. Traditional basket weavers often split the red bud with their teeth. So any pesticides or toxins can make the family sick.
There are two basic weaves in Pomo baskets. The Coil basket, and the double weave. The Coil basket is the easiest and fastest weave. It is sturdy enough to put hot stones in to boil hot water. Early Spanish, Russian and American explorers were amazed of the variety and sturdiness of these baskets.
The long conical basket that fits on the back is used to carry egg-corns. Egg-corns were the stable diet of California and very important part of sustenance. The rougher sturdy utilitarian baskets were used for seed beaters and fish traps. Willow was used for baby baskets. Tree moss was put on top of the willow for the babies little mattress. The other utilitarian baskets were used for cooking, storage, and trade. The Pomo gift basket is probably most famous.
Anthropologists and archaeologist flocked to California in the early part of the 20th century in order to conduct salvage archaeology. this created a market for Pomo gift baskets. Many Pomo matriarch began to fulfill orders for east coast museums and private collectors. Pomo gift baskets consisted of green mallard scalps, yellow hammer feathers, orange flickers, abalone clam shells, and magnesite beads. Magnesite beads became treasured. Today these same baskets are often coveted at fine art auctions.