Greenwood Fest 2016 instructor April Stone Dahl


One aspect of green woodworking that never ceases to amaze me is ash basketry. Every time I’ve pounded apart an ash log, I‘m in awe when I see the growth rings delaminate perfectly. The resulting splints by themselves are rather fragile – but when woven together create a basket that will last generations. I’ve been concentrating on basket-making this week, so it’s fitting to introduce our next instructor for Greenwood Fest 2016, April Stone Dahl.

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I have not met April, but have followed her work, and her husband Jarrod’s, through their website and blog, When we at Plymouth CRAFT began talking about a festival for greenwood crafts, I knew I wanted to invite April to show us her basket work. The requisite blurb:

“April is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa/Ojibwe. She began her study in black ash basketry in the spring of 1998 after her husband had woven his first basket.  After spending the remainder of the year examining his basket and how it worked, a great understanding and respect for what the basket had showed her took hold.  In the spring of 1999, she wove her first basket.  From that point on, her time was spent weaving one basket after another.  Through this process of being mostly self-taught, she was able to learn firsthand how ratios and proportions and thicknesses played a role in the making of aesthetically pleasing utilitarian baskets, as well as suitable tree selection and harvesting living trees from the swamp.  In the fall of 2000, she taught her first class.

Since the humble beginnings of her work with ash basketry, April has not only learned a great deal about this type of splint work, but shares it with anyone who has an interest.  She has provided demonstrations and tailored workshops for after school programs, libraries, college classrooms, folk schools, high risk youth programs, art centers, tribes and cultural events, while working out of her home, in her community, regionally and internationally.

Through the years she searched for other native basket weavers in the area, which historically had many, but found only a few and many were not currently weaving. She came to realize she was the only ash basket-weaver making baskets in her band and among just a hand full in all of the northern Chippewa/Ojibwe in Wisconsin.

In the near 17 years that April has spent weaving, selling, teaching and researching black ash basketry, she has gained much insight into what makes a really good splint basket. She lives with her husband, Jarrod, and their 4 children on the Bad River Indian reservation in northern WI., where she enjoys reading, home-schooling, eating good food and exploring her cultural connections with handcraft.”

April’s work helps us to see that green woodworking is more than spoons and chairs. One more reason that even I can’t wait for this event. Here’s some pictures, this first one I love – I think of it as “In with the old, out with the new” as the basket replaces the plastic bag…

Some may see this as problematic as the bag is a plastic facsimile of the real basket. I see this as a slow movement back toward using baskets again through changing our cultural opinions/views by using the image of the basket in use again.

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pack basket full view

April's baskets

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10 thoughts on “Greenwood Fest 2016 instructor April Stone Dahl

    • Derek – baskets are one of those things that have been so watered-down by cheap imitations that it’s hard to “see” them for what they are. When you get a chance to handle a real handmade basket from good strong materials, it’s a whole different thing. And the variety and details are astounding.

  1. The ash baskets really do last generations. I just received a woven ash backpack. My dad’s great-uncle made it for my uncle or grandpa. The leather straps have rotted, but the basket itself is still solid and sturdy.

    Thanks for introducing April & Jarrod. They’re not too far from where I grew up, and many of their workshops are close enough that I could actually go to one!

  2. Hi Peter. The baskets are beautiful. Do you have a copy of John Rice Irwin’s book “Baskets and Basket Makers in Southern Appalachia”? It would be my pleasure to mail one if you don’t.

      • I know my mom had a copy years ago, but she had a tendency to give books away to folks. She took up basket making in the early 80s, and we spent many a nice weekend at The Museum of Appalachia. I’ll dig around her house when we head back to Tennessee for the holidays. I think they’re still available on Amazon, too.

  3. I heard about the green wood fest this weekend at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN. What I don’t see in any of the related blog posts is when and where this is happening. I’d love to attend if I can start planning now.

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