Large Turtle and Butterfly Basket

Jonathan Black


SKU: a13125 Category: Tags: ,


The Black family is preeminent among Navajo basket-weavers.

Matriarch Mary Holliday Black and her extended family are renowned throughout the Indian art world, for maintaining and recreating the Navajo basket tradition. Jonathan is a younger generation of this famous and gifted family.

This beautiful basket is traditional in materials, elements, and construction, but with a modern, varied, and vibrant palette.

Hand-gathered, -dried, and -wrapped sumac is decorated with various traditional elements: butterflies, cornstalks, a turtle.

These are enlivened with rich colors, thanks to aniline dyes, not available in the past.

The center motif is a large, stylized turtle. Turtles are symbols of water and longevity. In other words, very good luck. The turtle has a star-shaped shell and turquoise eyes!

All around the rim, an equally vivid collection of shapes are placed: four butterflies, and four horizontal cornstalks. Both of these are traditional good luck symbols, as well.

The four butterflies are placed to represent the four geographic directions, a sign that their happy help in propagating plants and crops should extend throughout the world.

Corn is the staff of life for the Navajo and their neighboring tribes. It represents happiness, good health, and abundance of all kinds.

The rows of coils are tightly woven, and the design elements are crisply depicted in jewel-like colors.

This creates a glowing effect, against the pale straw color of the dried sumac, like stained glass.

The long, tedious and often painful process involved in creating this basket has resulted in a lively, colorful design, meticulous in execution. The Black family legacy continues…


Display this basket with the turtle’s head up, and tail pointing down, whether on a stand, the table, or on the wall.

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