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Jewelry by K.Nelson

Page 5





Review of Penobscot Basketry Film

 Penobscot Basket Maker - Reviewed by Carol Toner, ME Studies, Univ. of ME, 2003.

In his latest film, "Penobscot Basket Maker", filmmaker Jim Sharkey has produced

a beautiful documentary that weaves together the life and artistry of Indian Island's

renowned basket maker, Barbara Francis.  Displaying his skills in both filming and

editing, Sharkey presents Francis's work and her story with great sensitivity and


Barbara Francis's baskets have won honors at nationally recognized Indian art

shows, including Best of Show at the Lawrence Indian Art Show (1999) and 1st Place

in the 81st Annual Santa Fe Indian Market (2002).  Displayed in many museums and

galleries, her baskets are remarkable pieces of art that reflect the long history of

Penobscot basket making.  As Sharkey's film illustrates, her baskets also

reflect Francis's own history.

Born and raised on Indian Island, Barbara Francis left home as a teenager only to

face poverty and racism.  When she returned to the island - alone, pregnant and

destitute - two older Penobscot women offered to take her in.  They taught her to

make baskets, and at the same time they taught her about her heritage. These

women, and later her grandmother and other women, shared their skills with

Barbara, passing along the distinctive Penobscot basket styles.  While basket

making became her life's work, it also brought her a deeper appreciation for

Penobscot history and culture.

Barbara narrates her life story while weaving her baskets, stopping to explain the

fine points of basketry - choosing just the right pieces of brown ash, alternating

 light and dark shades of ash, weaving in a few rows of sweetgrass to make the

basket unique, and finally working in the fancy porcupine weave.  Although the

baskets appear empty, she explains, they are full of history, tradition, culture and

spirituality.  She points out the 'circle of life' created by the weave in the bottom of

basket.  Just as her elders taught her how to make baskets, she is teaching the

next generation.  It is her contribution to preserving the Penobscot Nation's culture.

Jim Sharkey has captured the remarkable beauty of the baskets and Barbara's

philosophical musings while also providing something of a larger historical

context through many still photos of Indian Island.  His occasional use of Hawk

Henries exquisite Native American flute sound provides a lovely musical

accompaniment.  It is Sharkey's attention to fine detail that elevates this film.  For

example he focuses on the persistent sound of pounding as Barbara's husband

Marty prepare the ash, and then on the humming sound created as Barbara

quickly braids sweet grass stretched on the back of a chair.  Like the baskets

themselves, the film is a carefully crafted piece that will help preserve the art

of Penobscot basket making.

More reviews are available at   www.folkfilms.com

References to my basketry

                   Maine State Museum for permanent display 11/20/1997
               Penobscot Times Article 11/1997        
                  First Lady, Maine presented my basket to First Lady, Minnesota 6/98
  Merit Award @ Lawrence Indian Art Show, Kansas 9/1998
                  Channel 7 Interview w/ my apprentice November 1998
              Island Artisans Gallery, Bar Harbor, ME displayed my work 1999/200   
               Best of Show, 3D art, Lawrence Indian Art Show, Kansas 9/1999
                  Penobscot Times Interview 11/1999
               Daughters of the American Revolution, Guest Speaker 10/2000             
               Boston Sunday Globe 9/17/2000 covering "Hands of the Ancestors"
                  The Patriot Ledger, covering "Hands of the Ancestors" 9/23-24/2000 
               South Shore Art Center, Cohasset, Mass. "Hands of our Ancestors"    an Assembly of Algonquin Artists 9/24 - 11/12/2000
                South Look, Mariner Newspaper 9/27/2000 covering "Hands of the Ancestors"             
               Portland Sunday Telegram interview w/ Roberta Scruggs 12/3/2000
                 Round top Center For the Arts, Darmariscotta, ME. March 24th, 2001
                 80th Annual Santa Fe Indian Market, Second Place Class VI, Division C, Basketry
                     81st Annual Santa Fe Indian Market, 1st Place and Third Place, Basketry
                     Penobscot Times Article 10/03/2002 "Francis Baskets win 1st & 3rd"
                     Maine Sunday Telegram, 10/20/2002 "Prestigious Basketmaking Win"
                     Penobscot Times, 1/2/2003 "Local Man Makes Film on Penobscot Basketmaker"
                     5th Annual Heard Museum Indian Art Market, 2 Honorable Mention Awards 3/1&2, 2003
                   Penobscot Basket Maker"-The Film and Artist, ME studies Program, Women's History Month
                     Penobscot Basket Maker" featured at the Maine International Film Festival 7/11-20, 2003
                     "Crafting a Market", Maine Sunday Telegram, 6/29/03 Interview w/ Tux Turkel
                     "Visiting Scholar" for the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Indian 7/2003
                      "Barbara Francis makes basket after basket" Indian Trader Newspaper, NM 7/2003
                      82nd Annual Santa Fe Indian Market, Third Place, Class VI, Division C, Basketry