Johnston, Don – Baleen Basket with Whale Tail Lid
This is a stunning traditional style baleen basket by Don Johnston (Aleut). Don 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. For this piece, the entire basket is woven from baleen. It is round in shape and then has a very tightly fitting lid. Knowing the difficulty in weaving with baleen, it is incredible how tightly woven Don makes his baskets! The top of the lid is carved from fossilized ivory and it is the classic “whale tail”. There is an elegant simplicity to his basket forms carvings. 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! It is signed, “Don Johnston” and was made in 2022. 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.