Chumash Fine Horsehair Basketry by Respected Native American Basket Weaver

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Linda Aguilar (Chumash) is one of the foremost Native American Basket Weavers

Aguilar’s reputation as an artist is such that a basket of hers was added to the permanent collection of outstanding examples of contemporary art in the Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. as part of their 25th Anniversary celebration.

Lidded Natural Horsehair basket, glass beads and shell
Lidded Natural Horsehair basket, glass beads and shell

Pacific Western Traders was instrumental in placing the basket in that collection. Her baskets have also been shown at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, The Stagecoach Museum at Newbury Park, CA (they have over 100 in their permanent collection), as well as many others around the world.

When Nelson Mandela of South Africa visited Los Angeles, Mayor Tom Bradley presented him with one of Aguilar’s baskets. The Dalai Lama has also received one of her baskets. Aguilar has won over 50 “first place” or “best of show” awards.

Aguilar is best known for her tightly coiled horsehair baskets decorated with shells, beads, and other materials she “picks up and stores in her pockets”. The Chumash people did not traditionally make horsehair baskets. Traditional Chumash baskets were made from deer grass and juncas grass.

The making of horsehair baskets has evolved over the last two centuries. Aguilar is an expert in the more traditional baskets as well. She was a featured artist in the video A Treasure of California Baskets by Gregory Schaaf, PhD.

Aguilar was taught to weave at an early age, and it is as much a part of her life as walking and talking. The truth is she does not remember how or when she learned to weave. It is something she has always done. “A lot of people say I was spirit taught,” she says. She is what native people would call a “contrary” or clown. Frequently getting her inspiration from dreams, as a contrary she infuses a sense of humor into work and avoids negative influences. Aguilar refuses to watch anything but comedy on television while weaving as well; she will not weave while she is sad or upset, lest she weaves unhappiness into the basket.

She says, “My weaving is a meditation for life. It helps me see and understand how everything is connected to each other. When I collect my materials to make a basket, I notice pollution and the weather…. The art is connected to the material and my physical being – the faster I try to go, the longer it seems to take me. I simply have to be in a peaceful state of mind and let the spirits and the art take over.”

Linda Aguilar has been represented by Pacific Western Traders since 1993, and a participant of our Seasonal Markets. There will be an exhibition of her new baskets, featuring a California Gambling Tray (with “horsefeathers”); the largest basket she ever has made, as well as her miniature and lidded baskets.

Courtney Puffer is a writer and art dealer, who runs Pacific Western Traders with his father, Herb, in Folsom, California. Courtney is extremely knowledgeable about native American art and customs. Sadly, Courtney passed away on 17th September, 2008, while on a business trip, but his writing lives on at NewsBlaze.