Johnston, Don – Oval Baleen Basket with Double Whale Tail
WOW! 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. On this piece, the entire basket is woven from baleen. It is oval 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 “double whale tail”. It is carved from a single large piece of fossilized ivory. Take a look at the close-up and the beautiful elegance of the carving! Don not only captures the two tails, but uses the coloration of the material to enhance their appearance. Stunning! 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.