Byting Willows – The Evolution of the Dine’ Basket

bytingwillowsOnlinePromoIn Southeastern Utah during the 70’s and 80’s a revival was occurring with a small group of basket weavers on Douglas Mesa.  The Black family became renowned for inspiring innovation and creativity into Dine’ basketry using Dine’ sandpainting figures/designs, Pima baskets, and Tohono O’odham basket designs.  This innovation led to Mary Black and her family receiving recognition, and a Governor’s Award from the State of Utah.

The revival was well in motion when Barry Simpson of Blue Mountain Trading Post in Blanding Utah, placed a request for a graphic designer at the local Job Service office.  A young Dine’ man replied, Damian Jim, and after several interviews, he started collaborating with Barry on Blue Mountains current store of ideas.  The initial sketches were made on drawing paper with a compass and a pencil.  These initial ideas are still in the archives of Twin Rocks Trading Post, which was at the time, a convenient location for basket and rug artists to come to sell their works.

After a time, the trading post invested in a Macintosh computer for creating the designs in a digital format.  The period of time for creating all the digital work spanned 9 years, during which many award-winning designs were created as well as articles, books, and several documentary pieces for tv and video.  This period in history included Damian striking out on his own and going back to school to get a degree in Computer Information Systems, and after a short amount of time, investing more time in his own artwork.

After starting up 1Spot Gallery in 2012, Damian and gallery manager Michelle Ponce, produced many amazing shows and collaborations, several awards and recognition from the downtown Phoenix art community.  It was during this time that Damian wanted to bring his experience working with the basket designs to fruition, and an overnight brainstorm session with Katja Lehmann, birthed Byting Willows.

The project is two-fold in that the initial introduction to the public will be a collaborative exhibit of master artists interpreting Damian’s designs and translating them into their preferred working medium.  The 2nd phase of the project involves a printed book with 100 of the best designs, as well as the collaboration project artists and their pieces, with a compendium of the additional 1400 designs in an iPad app available as a download.

The exhibit will open on Third Friday, February 20, 2015, from 6pm – 10pm at 1Spot Gallery in downtown Phoenix.  The grand opening of the exhibit will be on Thursday, March 5th, from 6pm – 10pm, and First Friday, March 6th, from 6pm – 7pm.  The same weekend March 8th, 9th, will be Art Detour, and the gallery will be open from 11am – 5pm.  As an added bonus, Paint Phx will also be happening during that same weekend, as well as the Heard Museum Indian Fair and Market.  Stop by for any of these events and share in the explosion of art that Byting Willows will be a part of in March.


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