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Caring For Your Woven Basketry, Hats and Artworks

Woven baskets and hats are now culturally and artistically significant objects and should be treated as such. With the correct care and maintenance, it is very probable that they can last hundreds of years; some prime examples in museums collections are in near identical condition as they were 200 years ago.

Genuine handcrafted root and bark woven artworks, although quite resilient and beautiful when new, must be cared for properly or they may not withstand the test of time.

There are techniques to help repair pieces through professional restoration; however, advance prevention of damage should always be the priority and a primary means of caring for your collection.

As a basket or hat ages, the fibres may become brittle and prone to fractures. Below are some recommended ways in which a woven item can be cared for to ensure it stays as vibrant and beautiful as the day it was made.

Handling

Especially with older woven items, always pick up it up with two clean hands (wear white cloth gloves whenever possible) and support it from the base. Never pick it up by the handles or rim and never squeeze it to see how supple it is. Older fibres will crack and snap under the stress.

Light

Keep your woven items out of direct sunlight. The light will cause the colours on the basket or hat to wear away over time and for the roots to become dry and brittle much faster. Spruce or cedar root may naturally become darker over time, but any other pigments and materials used can be preserved in their original form if kept out of light. Often times the inside of an older basket or hat will be much more vibrant than the outside which was exposed to light.

Dust

Dust that accumulates in woven objects will absorb moisture over time and can cause the air around the basket to become more acidic. This will degrade the fibres over time. It is best to keep your woven artworks in a case or container to prevent it from collecting dust.

Heat & Humidity

Sudden changes in the temperature or humidity in the environment may cause a lot of damage. If a woven artwork becomes too wet it can become misshapen as it dries. Damp conditions can also encourage the growth of mold and the rotting of fibres. Never submerge your basketry in water.

High temperatures will likewise cause your woven artwork to become misshapen. If placed under a strong light or near a heat source this will quicken the process, and potentially cause damage to result in becoming uneven and thus the artwork becomes even more misshapen.

The same can be said for the cold especially where there is moisture. This will become damp, and promote the conditions needed to potentially grow mold.

If your basket does show signs of this always follow the rule of “Do Nothing”. Trying to repair this yourself may cause further damage. Seek out a professional who can help prevent further damage and conduct a proper restoration.

Insects

Insects can eat natural fibres and cause serious damage to a woven artworks. Basketry should be stored as to minimise exposure to insects. If an object does become infested it should be brought to a professional who can freeze or fumigate it.  Cedar items are less likely to become infested as the material contains natural bug repellents.

Human Error

Mishandling your woven artworks or using them improperly can cause damage. Baskets and hats were made for use. With older and more valuable pieces, they should never be roughly handled, bent or stained in any way. The older and the drier the fibres, the more likely they can snap and fall apart with strenuous use.

Repair and Restoration

As mentioned above, the best rule of thumb with a degrading woven artwork is “Do Nothing”. Bring it to a professional restorer who can address the situation properly.

Reference: Spruce Root Basketry of the Haida and Tlingit; Sharon J. Busby

Caring For Your Drum

The following recommendations are ways that one can care for both painted and unpainted drums in order to increase longevity.

Drums will alter in tone as a result of fluctuating moisture and heat. Drums sound their finest within the same humidity and temperature range comfortable to most people. In cool wet climates, drums should not be stored or displayed near the floor or in trunks where they will draw moisture.

It is best not to hang a drum too high, for it may dry out, due to the lack of circulation that occurs closer to the ceiling. If the hide becomes white or cracked, which is unlikely to occur to in average temperate conditions, any animal fat or vegetable oil rubbed on the inside of the drum will ease the problem.

To avoid damage under conditions of extreme temperature and low humidity, moisture can be added to the air by using a humidifier or teapot.

In the event the drum loosens, place the drum flat above a heated element, approximately 10 inches above, until firmness occurs (approx. 5 to 10 minutes). Then wave the drum up and down in order for it cool.

A drum that is only slightly dull in tone may be warmed by gently rubbing the head in a circular motion from the center out with an open bare hand for a few minutes.

Drums may be sheltered from scratches and damage from the elements when travelling by using a drum bag, wrapping in a blanket or providing other padding.

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