Apache Arts and Crafts
Traditional Apache arts & crafts include basketry, bead-work, and pottery.
Apaches are well-known for their basketry. Basket making is passed down mother to daughter, from generation to generation. Basket-making material included mulberry, willow, cottonwood, and devil’s claw. Some baskets served as storage containers or to carry water. A Tus was a large jar-shaped basket that was sealed with pine pitch to make it water-proof and so was used to carry water or store food. Burden baskets were U-shaped baskets that were carried on the back and held in place by a strap placed across the forehead. Burden baskets were used to gather food, such as crops, gather wood, and also to haul their belongings. Other types of baskets include trays, plaques, and bowls. Basket size indicates what its purpose is, small ones are used as medicine baskets, medium-sized wedding baskets given as gifts and weddings; and the large size baskets are burden baskets and bread baskets.
Today, the art of basketry remains strong in Apache culture. Baskets are still used for traditional purposes, but are also made for sale.
Because Apaches were seminomadic and moved frequently, their manufacture of pottery wasn’t as refined as their basketry. Pottery was made using the coiling method which involved making a shallow base out of clay and building up the walls by adding coils of clay. The coils were joined and moistened and the walls smoothed to the desired thickness and height. The pottery was then dried and fired, after which the pottery was painted with melted pitch to make it waterproof. What pottery that was made were mainly jars which were used to boil meat or corn, store food, melt pine pitch that was used to water-proof water bottles, and as drums.
Today, pottery is made mainly for sale.
Traditionally, the Apache decorated clothing and other items with paints that were made from vegetable. The Apache began engaging in bead-work in the middle of the nineteenth century when Europeans introduced glass beads. They used four beadwork techniques: loom weaving, sewing, stringing, and netting. In addition to using beads to decorate items of clothing, beads were also used to decorate moccasins, buckskin pouches and knife cases, necklaces, and women’s hair ornaments.
Today, the craft of beadwork remains strong in Apache culture. In addition to beaded traditional items, commercial craft items such as earrings, keychains, purses, barrettes, and hair clips, are also made.
This video, titled The Apache Indian, talks bout bead work and pottery; it starts 1:40 minutes into the video and stops at 2:05 minutes. This video was provided by the American Indian Film Gallery.(The Apache Indian.Video. Coronet Productions. American Indian Film Gallery. www.aifg.arizona.edu. 1945, Medium.)
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