On Saturday, visitors to the annual Prairie Day event at George Washington Carver National Monument had the opportunity to learn about things from yesteryear that are still being used today.

One such art was basket weaving.

“Because we didn’t have plastic bags, paper bags back in the 1800s, every woman had a basket to carry her goods in. whether it be to carry her eggs to town or to bring stuff home, so baskets were an important part,” basket weaver Rea Sherwood of Miami, Okla., said. “We take for granted a plastic bag or tote bag of some sort, but back then they used the baskets.”

Famous educator, scientist and artist Carver grew up on the Moses Carver Farm, which is located right outside of Diamond.  

“They were made from just whatever they could go out and pick up,” said Sherwood. “They can be made from honeysuckle, made from cattails, from willow, just different wildlife things. And then as far as dying them, you can dye the stuff if you want it colored, you can dye them with walnuts, or you can dye them with berries. But most of them were not dyed, because it was for to use, not for looks.”

As far as how long it took to make a basket as compared to today, she said, “it took them quite a bit longer because they had to go gather the stuff and they had to cut it, they didn’t have the modern things like we have. We order our stuff already processed. Occasionally, we will go out and pick some stuff.  But most of the time, it is ordered in. it doesn’t take us long, I am not sure how long it would take them but we can make one in just a matter of a few hours.”

Today, Sherwood said more and more decorators are using baskets decorating homes.

She hopes that learning the art of basket weaving is not a dying art.

“It is a lost art, and we are just one generation away loosing it,” she said. “I think that it is important that children see and understand why we had the baskets. So I think that it is necessary to carry on and not lose the art.”

Another hands-on activity that visitors could do was making natural dyes.
Carver learned the art of painting at a very early age.

According to accounts, Carver visited a neighboring house when he was young. He was in the parlor of this home and saw the artwork on the walls. Later, Carver came back to the Carver Farm, he figured that he could do anything.

So using the same techniques, children had the opportunity on Saturday to use flowers and berries to produce colors and in turn, use feathers and sticks, to name a few things, to paint on sheets of paper.

“I am making a card with flowers and I am smashing them up with a rocks,” said Ellie Hicks, 10. “It took me about 10 minutes to make the card. I am going to give it to my grandpa, because it is his birthday.”

Visitors used feathers or sticks to paint.

The event draws in countless visitors during the day, last year, they had around 2,000 people show up. As of 11 a.m. Saturday — only an hour after it had opened — park personnel noted they already had 800 people show up.

The day-long event also included music from various groups; storytelling; demonstrations of Dutch-oven cooking; canning items; wood spinning; lye soap making; Civil War medicine and wagon rides.