Posted on Monday, May 22, 2006 by Molly Mitchell
In May 2006, Native American basket weaver Julia Florence Parker taught a one-day workshop at California College of the Arts as part of the Masters of Tradition series, which was attended by students taking courses in the Textiles Program.
Parker spoke of her life, told stories, and taught students traditional willow twinning with materials she had gathered in the Sierra Nevada. Parker has been a long-term friend of the Textiles Program, during which time she has taught several workshops and shared her unique perspectives on Native American textile arts.
She is one of the country's preeminent Native American basket makers—a prolific artist, as well as a teacher, storyteller, and cultural treasure. Throughout more than 40 years of study, practice, and experimentation, she has emerged as an expert in Californian native basketry, including the traditions of her own Coast Miwok and Kashaya Pomo people and her husband's people, the Sierra Miwok and Mono Lake Paiute. Grounded in traditional knowledge and age-old custom, she is nonetheless innovative in approach. Parker is known for her intertribal style of weaving, in which she synthesizes design elements and techniques of diverse groups in original and complex structures.
Her work is in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; the Yosemite Museum, Yosemite National Park; the Norwegian Ski Association headquarters, Oslo, Norway; the private collection of Queen Elizabeth II of England; and numerous other private collections.
In 2004, Parker's work was the subject of a major retrospective exhibition, The Past in Present Tense: Four Decades of Julia Parker Baskets, at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, California, which was curated by the Textiles Program's chair, Deborah Valoma.
Parker has worked as an Indian cultural specialist at the Yosemite Museum since 1960, demonstrating basketry, telling Native stories and acting as a cultural interpreter. She also travels nationally, consulting, teaching, and lecturing.
In 2006, CCA conferred honorary doctorates to Julia Parker and Richard Tuttle.