Members of the Cherokee tribe have been weaving baskets for thousands of years. When the first European explorers arrived in the New World in the Fifteenth Century, they were greeted by Native women carrying baskets of food. In the Cherokee’s eastern homeland, weavers most often used river cane to make the baskets, but all that changed in the early 1800s.
In 1838, artist Mary Stone’s great grandparents were forced to leave their home on the Conesauga River in Georgia and travel to Indian Territory on the Trail of Tears. In the late 1980s, Stone became curious about her family history and started doing genealogical research. She was particularly interested in her grandmother, Mary Woodard Stone, a full-blooded member of the Cherokee tribe who had died within just a few years of giving birth to Stone’s father. “I wanted to do something to honor the memory of the grandmother I had never met.”
Stone wasn’t sure what that would be until she happened to see a book on the Santa Fe Indian Art Market. “It had beautiful color photographs of these fabulous pieces. I saw a picture of Mavis Doering and her amazing baskets.” The index of the book included Doering’s contact information and Stone was surprised and thrilled to discover Doering lived nearby in Warr Acres. “I called to see if she might teach classes.”
That call sparked a mentorship that lasted until Doering’s death in 2007. Doering arranged for Stone to attend a four-day workshop at Quartz Mountain where Stone made four baskets. Stone took her creations home, showed them to her family and figured that would be the extent of her involvement with the art of basketweaving. Doering, however, had other plans.
“Within a week, she invited me to go with her to the Indian Art Market in Santa Fe,” Stone said. “She taught me everything I know and she introduced me to so many people: actors, politicians, famous Native American artists.” See Mavis Doering’s pieces in the Oklahoma Judicial Center collection on page 184.
Learning the basket techniques also provided insight into tribal history. River cane is not native to the Oklahoma area, so after the removal, Cherokee weavers adapted their style, using buckbrush, reeds, honeysuckle and willow. These thinner materials allowed them to make the famed Double-Wall basket.
Stone blends traditional weaving techniques with her own touches to create unique works of art. She uses modern aniline dyes, something her ancestors would not have had, but the effect they produce can’t be matched with natural pigments. “I love the vibrancy, the brilliant reds they produce.”
Stone’s work has been displayed throughout Oklahoma and she has participated in many shows, including Tsa La Gi at the Cherokee Nation Museum in Tahlequah and the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee. She has also exhibited at the Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City, the Haskell Indian Nations Art Show in Lawrence, Kansas, and the Winter Expo at the Kirkpatrick Center in Oklahoma City. Stone continues to share her love of basket weaving with students in community art programs across the state. This piece was donated to the Oklahoma Judicial Center by Justice Yvonne Kauger.