Marian Miner of Tomah, Wisconsin, is one of very few Ho-Chunk basketmakers still practicing this traditional art form. She has work at the Smithsonian Institution, and during the Obama era Michelle Obama displayed one of Marian's baskets in the living quarters of the White House. At age 84, Marian continues to make baskets in her spare time. This is a labor of love for her, and gives her the opportunity to reminisce on the time she spent with the fine artisans who taught her.
Marian recalls learning to make black ash baskets at the age of six. She had four distinct teachers: her mother, one cousin and two aunts, each of whom used a distinctive color palette. Rose Miner, Marian’s mother, liked to use natural colors with yellow and brown, while Maudie Eagle, Marian’s cousin, used all natural colors. Her aunt Ruth Cloud preferred natural, black and various shades of blue, and another aunt, Sarah WhiteEagle, liked to use natural and a wide variety of colors to create various patterns. Marian herself likes to use a wide variety of colors and patterns.
Marian would like admirers to understand that it takes a great deal of time to make a basket, from choosing the tree and preparing the log for stripping, to getting the strips prepared to be made into baskets. She estimates that from tree to finished product, each basket takes a minimum of 40 hours.