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. On this piece, the entire basket is woven from baleen. Don says of this piece, “From the bottom of the finial is new ivory, then a baleen Baidarka. Body of the man and the face are old ivory. There is Whalebone ivory and baleen in the visor. It is a Baleen paddle with ivory. The lid should be removed 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.