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What are some facts about Maidu baskets?

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Quick Answer

The traditional baskets made by the Maidu people are characterized by coils, and are usually made from peeled willow and peeled or unpeeled redbud, though many other plants have been used. They are usually only two colors: a brownish red on a white or neutral background that yellows with age.

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Full Answer

The Maidu people are known for their intricate baskets, and hundreds can be found in museums throughout the United States. They are decorated in geometric patterns that often include motifs that were important to the Maidu, including bears, geese, and fish. Some of the baskets are woven so finely and tightly that a magnifying glass is needed to see the individual coils.

The traditional art of weaving baskets the Maidu way is a dying one. Lilly Baker, one of a handful of full-blooded Maidu left, was the last to be taught in the tradition of grandmother to mother to daughter. She taught several classes on basket weaving, and in 1985 the L.A. Times reported that the Plumas County Art Commission received a $2,500 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to record Baker's process. Along with slides, photographs and text, four women were recruited to learn the traditional art. Baker died in 2011, but her process did not die with her.

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