The 2011 Santa Fe Indian Market Best of Show Winner, Passmaquoddy basket weaver Jeremy Frey, has had an extraordinary year. The 32-year-old Maine resident also won the Best of Show prize at the Heard Museum Indian Fair and Market earlier this year, and it should be noted that he was recently awarded a $50,000 artist grant from the Los Angeles Based organization United States Artists.
The eighth-generation basket weaver may be familiar to Indian Market visitors. Frey was part of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance demonstrator’s booth at the 2009 Indian Market. The Alliance is an advocacy and educational organization that Frey has been involved with for years. In fact, Frey learned how to weave baskets from his mother Gal Frey at the age of 22, who was reintroduced to basket weaving at the Alliance. From drawing pictures as a child to his grade school declaration of wanting to be an artist when he grew up, Frey’s gift and skill as a basket weaver have reached a level unparalleled success.
“I’ve been doing it since day one. It seemed that it was what I should have been doing my whole life,” Frey says, “I thought to myself that if was going to be part of a group of basket weavers, then I wanted to do something to set my self apart…not distort the tradition, but refining what was already there.” Indeed, in a time when formal art training abounds, Frey finds inspiration for his sweet grass and black ash baskets from an internal place.
“What I find beautiful comes from within,” he says. Still, Frey is influenced from many sources. His extensive travels and his experiences weaving side-by-side with other basket weavers influence his own designs. Self-described as “traditional/contemporary” he uses locally harvested materials for his baskets, but designed and ultimately used in a different ways.
“There are times when I know what the shape and color are going to be and then I let it go from there…other times I have an exact image in my head of what I want to do.”
Weaving baskets may be, by some measures, a relatively accessible art form and art practice. By comparison, the tools and raw materials can literally grow from the ground until they are harvested and reshaped into something delicate and beautiful. Nevertheless, Jeremy Frey’s Best of Show Award from the Santa Fe Indian Market spotlights basket weaving's vast complexity and difficulty.
The correlation between the basket weaving and the cultural sustainability of his tribe and home cannot be adequately expressed. For a young man in the 21st century to be following a centuries-old practice, his achievement speaks incalculable volumes for all Native people expressing themselves through ancient art forms. "
Thanks to SWAIA for sharing this information