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DARLINE ROBINSON - December 2000

The Highlight of the Month program at The Indian Craft Shop focuses on a particular craft area, region or artist family/group. Our aim is to illustrate the diversity of tribal groups and the wide variety of artistic expressions and traditions in the country today.

When she was a girl growing up in the 1950s on the Coushatta Reservation in southwestern Louisiana, Darlene Robinson used to watch her mother, Loris Langley, making baskets. Loris was an accomplished crafter who helped support her family by selling the traditional baskets she would make from pine needles and raffia. Her children would sort the long leaf needles, put them in the attic to dry and then clean them for her. Loris would work into the night by the light of a kerosene lantern fashioning the needles into baskets. Darlene would watch her mother, and at the age of twelve, became interested in making baskets herself.

Today, mother and daughter are still making baskets together. When Darlene was first married, basketry helped pay the bills of a growing family. Now she works full time for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company and makes baskets in her free time. She feels that it is important to preserve the basketry tradition that she sees as a dying art. She also finds making baskets to be a way to relax.

Loris and Darlene use the long leaf needles from the long leaf pine tree (Pinus Palustris). They used to go out and gather the needles themselves, but because they have become so difficult and time-consuming to find, they purchase them from other members of their tribe who collect them. Darlene and Loris make beautiful, graceful lidded baskets and basket vases using these needles and raffia. Sometimes the baskets are decorated with small pinecones from the short leaf pine, or with raffia flowers.

The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana is known for its coiled pine needle baskets. Darlene and Loris make baskets in styles that they learned from other tribal members. In the past, the Coushatta have also been known for basketry made from split oak and from river cane. Darlene and Loris, whose baskets are sought after by collectors from around the country, are carrying on their tradition, and are doing a beautiful job of it.

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