Johnston, Don – Oval Baleen Basket with Silver and Owl Lid
This is a creative 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 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! Don has also woven sterling silver into the outer part of the basket so it creates a modern visual contrast with the black of the baleen. The lid is carved from fossilized ivory. It is a charming owl. The coloration is beautiful and the piece is carved in a classic style. 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.