About the Artist:
Artisan and basket-maker Paul St. John has a real connection with the creatures he depicts in his work. Paul currently lives in Maine, and his mother is Passamaquoddy. He grew up on the Mohawk lands in New York, his father's homeland. While quill work and coiled sweetgrass baskets are historically Maine Indian traditional crafts, currently no one but Paul St. John is actively practicing this craft. Quill work on coiled sweetgrass baskets is Paul St John's specialty.
The harvest design with watermelon and “cabbage roses” is an old Iroquois design. Here, the artist executes this design in porcupine quills on birch bark. He has added three sewing accessory baskets: a scissors case, a needle case and a pincushion basket — all placed inside the larger sewing basket.
The large rectangular basket has birch bark at the center of lid and used as the bottom, then has used coiled tidal sweetgrass on the sides and at rim of cover. The birch bark medallion at center top is 10.25 inches long by 4.25 inches wide. There is a lovely braided border of tidal sweetgrass around the lid's birch bark medallion. The basket has rounded corners. The birch bark is domed so the ends of the quills will fit between the outer layer of birch bark and the layer inside. The quills are dyed several shades of green, with some yellow, and several shades of pink to dark magenta. In addition, the artist has signed the large sewing basket on its inner lid with his maker’s mark: his initials “PstJ” and a sun symbol.
The three inner small sewing baskets each have a small four-petal flower on them done in the pink to magenta shades. The scissors case and the needle case are done in birch bark. The needle case has red felt lining to hold sewing needles. The pin cushion basket is a coiled sweetgrass basket with a birch bark medallion on the lid and has a soft fiber filling covered with red wool for pins. Finally, the needle case is trapezoidal in shape.
This is one of Paul St. John’s most ambitious quill work pieces. His artistry and technical ability give the melons and flowers shape and depth not usual in a quilled piece. As a sewing basket, this product will hold a lot of sewing accessories and is most functional. As an art piece, the entire ensemble is spectacular!
This sewing basket with accessories would make for an ideal gift for anyone who collects baskets or Native American artifacts. If that’s you, don’t let this gorgeous example of Mohawk and Passamaquoddy craftsmanship pass you by, as this piece is bound to be an important collector’s item.
Note: As part of our Annual Summertime Sale, purchase of the Birch Bark and Porcupine Quill Sewing Basket Set comes with a free $75 Dogbotz Boneyard gift certificate, which can be redeemed during a future purchase at our online store. The expiration date of the gift certificate is one year after purchase of this item.