A Tale Of Two Bags

Two new (to me) bags came into my life this summer. They brought two new people into my life, at two different events, and two new examples of looping from different parts of the world to spark conversations when I carry them.

Looped bag from April Winchell, possibly Quechua.

The first caught my eye from across the room when I saw it at the Willow Gathering in Decorah. So of course I made a beeline to meet the woman carrying it.

April Winchell with looped bag and willow basket.

April Winchell is a basketmaker with roots in the Midwest who now lives in California. April showed me the bag, including some repairs she had stitched, then generously let me to take the bag to study and photograph it.

Looped bag from April Winchell.

The bag appears to have been worked up from a round base. It’s made of animal fiber with a firm twist. Whether it was spindle-spun or hand-twisted, I couldn’t say.

Looped bag from April Winchell detail.

April said the bag was given to her after a friend found it left behind by someone else in a campground. Before leaving the conference, April passed the bag along to me.

Donna Kallner at All Things Considered VIII basketry exhibition with "Shoal".

I was proud to carry the bag throughout the National Basketry Organization’s biennial conference in St. Paul a few weeks later. For those who saw it and asked questions, I haven’t had time yet to learn more, but don’t give up on me. For most of the summer, it felt like I was always doing laundry so I could pack and take off again. I hope things will be a bit less hectic this fall, and I can do some more research. In the meantime, here’s an interesting link on pre-Columbian textiles that came up in my first foray into the research.

Bilum bag from Papua New Guinea via Cat Stewart.

The second bag came with more information about its provenance. Cat Stewart bought this bilum some years ago while traveling in Papua New Guinea.

Cat Stewart on Washington Island.

Cat came to Sievers in July for my Local Color class. Knowing of my interest in looping from my blog and social media posts, she brought the bag with her from North Carolina and gifted it to me.

Despite some holes, the structure of this bilum is sound.

The bag is made of hand-twisted plant fiber. Like the bag from April, this one has seen much use. It’s a perfect example of how stable the looping structure is: Despite some significant holes, the bag is still sound.

This tale of two bags presents a perfect metaphor for my summer. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And despite some significant gaps (holy cow, a month since I last posted?!), things have not fallen apart.

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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin

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