Grantee: April Stone-Dahl
Native Citizenship: Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe)
Location: Odanah, Wis.
Award: 2015 NACF Regional Artist Fellowship
Discipline: Traditional Arts
Web Site: woodspirithandcraft.com
April Stone-Dahl began teaching herself Black Ash basket weaving from books, museum collections and images. At the time, she could not find a practicing basket maker in her community. Her journey and discoveries along the way as she became a Black Ash basket weaver have inspired her concern and advocacy for the environment, which incidentally coincides with her belief and lifestyle to live environmental consciously and teach her children, as well, to do the same.
Stone-Dahl’s work revolves around the seasons of the year and living off the environment’s natural resources for warmth, food—including tapping maple trees for maple syrup—and Black Ash to weave. For her, life is gratifying as a traditional basket maker; she annually harvests and processes by hand the Ash bark into malleable strips, which the texture, the life of the tree, and the aroma of working with Ash bark inspires her with new innovative ideas to weave works.
The Black Ash tree is dying off. As the current rapid spread of the disease that has plagued the trees progresses, scientists have predicted that the species will be extinct in a matter of years. Thus, with her knowledge of this fact and further pondering the disease that is killing these trees, Stone-Dahl is motivated to draw public attention to this environmental issue. She wants to symbolically represent the dying-off of the Black Ash trees in a powerful message of how humans and globalization have affected the tree’s natural state; and she also wants her new works to represent how humans have become increasingly disconnected from their natural environment.
For her Regional Artist Fellowship, Stone-Dahl will create the pieces as a tribute to the dying Black Ash tree and also plans to research more about Ash basket weaving from other communities, museums and collections outside her region with the hope of gaining more knowledge about the tradition not only for her work but also to teach her students and other eager learners.
I make these baskets because nobody else in my tribe is making them. I make these baskets because it connects me to nature, history, self . . . . where only a few stories about Ash basketry remain amongst elders.
~ April Stone-Dahl