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Third generation basket weaver teaches Appalachian craft

Thompson said as more industrial areas pop up the river cane has slowly faded away.
Mary Thompson has been awarded the Spring 2021 Appalachian Craft and Culture Fellow.
Mary Thompson has been awarded the Spring 2021 Appalachian Craft and Culture Fellow.(WVLT)
Published: Mar. 30, 2021 at 4:38 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2021 at 4:43 PM EDT
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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) - A fellowship at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg is underway with a 3rd generation double-weave river cane basket weaver.

Mary Thompson has been awarded the Spring 2021 Appalachian Craft and Culture Fellow. Thompson is a member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.

Before she can even start to weave a basket, Thompson has to go searching for rivercane, which she says may take months.

“You know, probably three weeks or so to waive a basket, but it will probably take me three or four or five months to get enough plants to waive this,” she said. “I will get enough cane harvest enough cane that whenever I get home, my daughters and my mom and my sisters will all say and we will bust cane for weeks.”

The Fellowship offers traditional craft artists and cultural elders the opportunity, time, and space to learn, reflect and share their knowledge of the traditional craft.

Now Thompson looks forward to utilizing the resources that Arrowmont has.

“The history and tradition and basketry. It just all connects it just all connects. And the more I learn, the more I want to know,” she said. “And I think it’s why my daughters and the rest of us do it, we just, I don’t know. It’s good company. It keeps my mind out of the gutter and hands busy.”

Thompson said as more industrial areas pop up the river cane has slowly faded away. If you know of a good place to harvest it she’d like to know about it.

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