Wilsons weave the beauty of history

Two distinct kinds of First Nations weaving get a showcase at the Tofino Public Market, thanks to the Wilson family.

Rose Wilson and son Brian Wilson demonstrate and sell grass weaving and cedar weaving.

The intricate weave in tiny grass baskets comes from pale fine grasses used for the spokes and weavers of the pieces.

“We use grasses that grow in the forest – green bear grass – and grass that grows at the high water line,” Rose said in a Saturday session at the Tofino Public Market.

Rose comes from the Joe family, Ucluelet First Nation, originally from Long Beach – and basketweaving is in her roots.

“It’s been handed down from generation to generation, from my mother’s side of the family and from my father’s side of the family,” Rose said. “Some of the designs I learned from my grandmother.”

Historically, the little baskets were used to cache items, she said.

“Some of them were put on the side of the whalers’ canoe, with their sunscreen in there,” she said.

Another common component for her designs is seashells.

“We used to put them on the regalia, long ago,” Rose said.

Other elements of her booth include jewelry, some of it traded from other artists, and a miniature cedar chuputs (traditional First Nations canoe) created from cedar by her grandson.

And then there’s the cedar work. A familiar sight on the West Coast, the bell shaped hats, headbands and small baskets and other accessories are formed using strips from the inner cedar bark.

The Wilson family started doing cedar work a decade ago, she said.

“We had to learn it by trial and error, there was nobody to teach us to strip the tree. Me and my sister, Molly Haipee, we stumbled into it,” Rose said.

Her son Brian Wilson of Port Alberni creates cedar work hats, bottle holders, baskets, typically worked around a mold to shape the pliant cedar.

“I do whatever comes to me,” he said.

editor@westerlynews.ca