Artist Media Series
Don Johnston (Aleut) was born in Ketchikan, Alaska. He apprenticed with James Omnik, Sr. a well-known baleen basket weaver. In the years since those first important lessons, Don has continued to improve and innovate his unique weaving style. Needless to say, this piece is extraordinary. The kayak is woven from baleen. The top and bottom are larger, polished pieces of baleen. The oar on top of the kayak is also baleen, as is the spear. The figure is made from whalebone ivory, fossilized ivory, and baleen. The seal is fossilized ivory with baleen whiskers. The hunter in the kayak has missed the seal, which is underneath the boat. The top half is removable by the edge, not the finial. There is always a locking lip on the bottom inside of the lid.” Simply exceptional! We are pleased to have his work at both our galleries in Santa Fe and Scottsdale!
What is baleen?
Baleen plates have hair-like structures that filter out tiny floating organisms and fish and are found in the mouth these plankton-eating whales. Baleen was originally used for indigenous objects like water cups, buckets, and sleds. The Bowhead whale has been subsistence hunted by Alaska Coastal Natives, including the Yup’ik and Inupiat for over 1,000 years, and no part of the whale is ever wasted. A butchered bowhead whale can yield thousands of pounds of food. The community shares of meat and blubber are apportioned equitably to ensure that everyone benefits from a successful hunt.