Native artisan baskets and pottery

The beauty of California lies not only in our remarkable flora, but in its people as well. For the indigenous peoples of the region, native plants often became cultural pillars.

The gift shop at the Garden is now featuring traditional willow and wiregrass baskets and clay pottery hand made by Pai Pai and Kumeyaay Indians tribes in Baja California, Mexico.

The tradition of basket making and pottery are some of the world’s oldest art forms. For generations, Native Americans have creatively used native plants and natural materials to create domestic and artistic objects. The Pai Pai pottery and Kumeyaay willow and wiregrass baskets are pieces that easily bridge domicile utility and art.

Arroyo willow, salix lasiolepis, and wiregrass, juncus texilis, are only two of the more than 75 species of plants used by Native American basket makers. Both can be found at the Garden.

The Garden has an interpretive trail that guides visitors along a path featuring 16 plants commonly used by California Indian tribes in basket making along the west side of Indian Hill Mesa. Free booklets are available at the California Garden Shop to help guide your walk along the Basketry Trail.

The finely-woven wiregrass baskets and understated willow baskets are created by the Kumeyaay Indians of San jmle de la Zorra in northern Baja California.

Wiregrass, also known as rush, is one of the most common wrapping materials used in the coiled baskets made by the indigenous tribes of Southern California. Found in abundance throughout Southern California in moist conditions, wiregrass can grow to a height of six feet. A natural color variation within the stalk is often used to make patterns in coiled baskets.

Southern California and Baja California tribal basket weavers frequently employ arroyo willow. It is used as foundation, wrapping, decorative and twining elements in their basketry. 

The Pai Pai Indians of Santa Catarina use of the rock and paddle is the same tradition used for thousands of years by many of the tribes in northern Baja and Southern California.

One area specialized vessels created with this process is the olla. Used for cooking, storage and serving, the shape may have been introduced to Native American tribes by Spanish settlers.

Once the clay has been extracted and dried, it is ground into a fine power and moisten with cactus juice. The coil-built form is smoothed and allowed to dry before firing in a pit.

The pieces came to the Garden Shop with the help of Get Native Art, a family business in Temecula that buys and sells art from Native Americans.

Get Native Art has a mission to help indigenous people economically and help share their beautiful art work often created in remote locations with a wider audience. All purchases help support the tribes directly. Learn more about Get Native Art at their blog.