On the southern slopes of the Smoky Mountains there is a Cherokee Indian reservation. The houses are hidden in the dense forest but nearby the highway that runs through the district widens out in a green valley and here the Indians have set up booths to attract tourists. Besides the usual refreshment bars and stands selling gaudy souvenirs and garish picture postcards, there is one booth which bears witness of an ancient culture, examples of structural and textural effects that still have something to tell us. This is the basketwork booth. You can see Indian baskets in shops in many large cities but they seem much more appropriate here on the rough wooden shelves of the simple stand built of crude lumber, with chicken-wire netting for protection instead of plate glass.
Basket weaving is one of the oldest crafts but it is still young and vital. The Indian baskets on sale in Cherokee, however, are not, as far as I could learn, products of an uninterrupted tradition. Interested white people got the Indians to take up their ancient craft again and to revive the old patterns. But this does not make the baskets less interesting and they are absolutely worth a closer study.
Most of the baskets are built up from a square base, with rounded corners and shapes that narrow towards the circular opening at the top. The basket-weaving technique itself leads to certain patterns, just as textile weaving does. It is, of course, possible to make a serviceable basket without any system in the weaving at all; but it is more difficult to plait fibers without system and obtain a good result than it is to follow a definite pattern. The basketmaker takes pride in making the weaving as even as possible and at the same time clearly showing that there is a pattern. Though patterns can be very intricate, the technique is so simple that everyone can appreciate the work. Its very simplicity appeals