Mary Thompson

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians


I am a third-generation Cherokee basket maker, learning white oak and rivercane basketry from my Mother, Geraldine Wolfe Walkingstick and my Grandmother, Annie Welch. I am a traditional basket maker using only natural materials from the plants that grow in the Appalachian Mountains: white oak, rivercane, butternut, walnut, and bloodroot. I learned to gather and process certain plants to make all of the materials needed for my baskets. I learned to make wooden splints, rims, handles, and dyes by watching my mother and grandmother. We work together as a family to harvest and process materials before a basket can be woven. Nowadays, its me, my daughters, my grandchildren, and my sister who are carrying on the Welch Cherokee basket-making tradition. Today I make many types of traditional baskets, as well as river cane wall mats of all sizes. I am learning to frame and cut my own matting board to hang my traditionally woven rivercane mats. Like my mother, my sister and my daughter, I am a member of the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, the oldest Native American marketing Co-op in the US that markets our baskets. I am also very active with Authentically Cherokee, an online marketing program through the Sequoyah Fund.

I have developed a natural resource-based business, Traditional Cherokee Artist Resources, Baskets and Vessels. I tend to forest crops that grow on my mountain land for traditional foods and art materials used by myself and my family.

In the early 2000's archeologists through the Museum of the Cherokee Indians called upon Cherokee artists to explore making modern examples of traditional stamped pottery. I am one of the founding members of a group that became the Cherokee Potters Guild. We make the pottery using an ancient pinch pot/coil method. I reproduce 1800's style stamped pottery, which is kiln cured at 1800- 2000 degrees then smudged in the fire for color. We use parts of the corn plant to make the vessels watertight. I make traditional fire pots (used to carry embers), and drinking and cooking vessels in both traditional sizes and in miniature. My children and grandchildren enjoy making pottery together.

Thanks to an opportunity to develop a new skill, I am now a clothing designer creating modern fashions featuring my original fabric designs. I create designs for fabric and sew contemporary and traditional clothing. I also make traditional-style Cherokee pucker-toed moccasins. My clothing designs have been modeled on the runway during the Kananesgi Fashion Show. My family will model my new fashions in this year's event in November. Through the years of making and selling my art, I have also become a photographer. My photographs have captured treasured images of generations of my family and the traditional methods we follow to create our art.

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