Our arts town: Heritage in baskets
During the past year, Marlene Montgomery has been building on her Native American history and adding to the collection of heirlooms for her family. She has done both by picking up the art of basket weaving, a tradition held by her family for decades. What is most special about Montgomery’s baskets is the amount of thought and time that goes into each one. “It takes me up to a year to just gather the traditional materials,” she said. “I don’t gather anywhere near farmland because of pesticides.”
Montgomery weaves with specific feelings as well. “What I’m feeling as I weave is what is weaved into the baskets, so I want my energy to be positive,” she said. “Each one I make is for someone in my family.”
Montgomery displays her work at various public events in Northern California, Oregon and Nevada, but they are rarely for sale. “I’m not here to make money,” she said. “I’m here to show the tradition is still alive.”
Montgomery is a mother to six children, four sons now on their own and her youngest, 16-year-old twin daughters. As she shows other people that Native American basket weaving is a special form of cultural art, she hopes to pass along the skills to her daughters.
Chico’s art history has gone on for centuries, beginning with Native Americans who first settled in the area. Basket weaving is one of the many parts of their culture that is artistically expressed. Montgomery intends to keep this expression a vivid illustration in the public mind, showing traditions of her heritage to anyone showing interest, continually working on her skill. “I’m still young as far as basket weavers go,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for 10 years but I still feel like I have a lot to learn.”