Birch Bark Basketmaking
How to make a birch bark basket of any size, step-by-step.
Basket maker Vera Manigault talks about the history and culture of sweetgrass baskets. She also shows us the tools she uses to craft the baskets and how to harvest the materials (bullrush, palmetto, sweetgrass, long pine needles) used in them. She notes that as the South Carolina coastline has developed access to the basket making materials has been cut off. In most cases, large areas of marshland where the plants grow have been cleared for development.
Basketmaker, Joseph Foreman talks more about making good sweetgrass baskets:
Larry Vienneau shows us how to make oak gall ink using the more readily available acorns. This is a dark-brown-black ink. He writes:
“Iron Oak Gall Ink was used for hundreds of years until modern archival inks arrived. This is the same ink used to sign the Declaration of Independence and to write most Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts.”
He notes that a similar ink was also used as a dye by Native Americans.
What you’ll need: clean whole acorns (no other debris), vinegar, gum arabic (or honey, which he says works just as well as a binder), a slow cooker, a wide-mouthed funnel, cheesecloth, a strainer, iron (rusty nails, steel wool, etc. or iron tablets from the health food store), a preservative (he uses solvent alcohol).
It can take up to a week to make the ink.
The black walnut has a long history of being used to produce a dark stain that can be used as ink, leather making dye, wood and grass stain and textile dye. It’s lightfast, colorfast and doesn’t respond to most solvents, so difficult to get out in general. Scrapbookers now also use walnut ink to give paper an antique look.
To make the ink you will need unhulled walnuts, water, a pot (it helps if it is rusty cast iron as the iron deepens the color), a sieve or cheesecloth and a stirrer. Some people also add rusty metal to the mix to darken the color and vinegar to help preserve the liquid.
Here is Annamarie Malik making a large batch of ink:
She sells bottles of walnut ink from her website http://annamalik.com/