Grantee:  April Stone
Native Citizenship:  Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe
Location:  Bad River, Wisconsin
Award:  2020 Mentor Artist Fellowship
Discipline:  Traditional Arts
Social Media:  Instagram

April Stone was first exposed to a Black-Ash basket in 1998. Impressed by the material’s durability and with the realization that it grew in abundance close to her home in Northern Wisconsin, Stone set out to teach herself all that she could about harvesting and weaving Black-Ash splint. She read numerous books, visited museums, and wove basket after basket to build her knowledge and technique. Stone searched for other artists in her tribal community who wove with Black Ash only to discover that she was the only one working with the material. As such, she is continually sought after as a weaving teacher and has led countless workshops and demonstrations locally, nationally and internationally to share her knowledge.

Stone harvests Black Ash from a nearby swamp and weaves all of her baskets by hand, which she says connects her to the land and ancestral memory in which community artisans regularly worked only with raw and natural materials. Today, the Black Ash tree is threatened by an invasive species called the emerald ash borer. To build awareness about the borer, Stone created burial baskets to speak to their threat to the Black Ash tree and their devastating effects on the environment.

For the 2020 Mentor Artist Fellowship, Stone will share with her apprentice, Liandra Skenandore (Citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin; also Prairie Band Potawatomi, Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, and Mvskoke Creek Nation), the cultural and historical aspects, harvesting methods, weaving techniques, and various styles of Black-Ash basketry. The two artists will harvest and process the materials to design, weave and complete a large-scale Black-Ash artwork. The completed work will be placed in a public venue where it will be seen by countless visitors and community members. Stone and Skenandore are from two different tribal communities, and as such, their woven work, as well as the public space in which it will be exhibited, will be symbolic of the importance of community and the value of bringing people together, like a weaving metaphor of interconnectedness.

I am told that carrying knowledge and being able to share the knowledge are two very different things. I feel very humble and blessed with these compliments and feel as though I am doing something right. I strongly feel that I am doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.

– April Stone