photo: Rob Amberg
Featured Artist: Eva Wolfe
Eva Wolfe was an accomplished weaver of rivercane baskets, a traditional type of Cherokee basketry that is becoming increasingly rare. It is estimated that fewer than 10 people practice this technique today. Born in 1922 in the Soco community of the Qualla Indian Reservation, Mrs. Wolfe first learned the craft from her mother. She later expanded her skills under the direction of her aunt Lottie Stamper, a noted Cherokee basketweaving instructor. Mrs. Wolfe pursued her craft all of her life, steadily making and selling baskets while raising a family of 11 children.
Although proficient in all aspects of basketmaking, Mrs. Wolfe won special distinction for her doubleweave baskets. Considered one of the most difficult techniques of plaited basketry, the doubleweave technique requires the continuous weaving of one basket inside another to create a flawless surface both inside and out.
Weaving rivercane takes an immense amount of preparation. Each April, she and her husband Amble traveled 80 miles from the reservation to select and cut cane. During the same month, she gathered her annual supply of bloodroot and butternut, which she used to dye her baskets. Using a variety of knives, Mrs. Wolfe split each cane stalk into four strips. When weaving she used as many as 120 strips of cane at once, which she manipulated with amazing dexterity.
Mrs. Wolfe's devotion to the doubleweave technique was a major factor in the revival of interest in this style. Having won awards for excellence in craftsmanship at tribal exhibits for years, her work placed first in an exhibition sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1968. The following year she was selected as the first Cherokee artist to have work displayed in a national exhibit. In 1978, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded a special grant for the creation of an exhibit of her work. She received the Brown-Hudson Award from the North Carolina Folklore Society in 1988.