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Sarah Reith with Sherrie Smith-Ferri

Posted by Women's Voices
Women's Voices
Women's Voices airs every Monday from 7 pm to 8 pm.
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on Thursday, 09 June 2016 in Uncategorized

Dr. Sherrie Smith Ferri is the Director of the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, so she was a perfect addition to my series about women in American history. Grace Hudson was a portrait painter who lived in Ukiah from 1885 until her death in 1937. Starting in 1911,she lived and worked in the Sun House, which is part of the museum. Her main subject was local Pomo people, whom she rendered romantically but with a level of ethnographic detail that Sherrie assured me was unusually accurate.

The hardest thing about preparing for this interview was reading the 19th century descriptions of local Native people, who were called “Diggers,” and worse, for their practice of cultivating local plants for their woven baskets, which are some of the finest in the world. The Hudsons were progressive for their day, and Grace’s husband John, who was a doctor, suffered a lot of social censure from other white people for taking Native patients and inviting them into his home and expressing an interest in their language and practices. He also bought a lot of their baskets, which led to many of them being able to support themselves independently. And he was  master salesman, writing copy about “the finest savage artwork.”

We talked about Pomo basketry in the second half of the interview, and how weavers would spend years cultivating various reeds to incorporate into their designs. Sherrie said the entire landscape was intensively cultivated for that purpose. She talked about how baskets are judged according to the perfection of the materials used, so a weaver’s skills at tending plants and selecting the materials are assessed along with the quality of the weave. She is planning a garden of basket-weaving plants at the museum, and is optimistic about this ancient art form continuing to survive in our modern landscape.

Sherrie Smith Ferri has curated or consulted for numerous displays of Native California basketry at many museums, including the Smithsonian Institutions’ National Museum of the American Indian. She is cited in the bibliographies of most works I found on the subject, and she is the co-author of several books on California history and basketry, including “Pomo Indian Basketry,” “Days of Grace,” about Grace Hudson’s year in Hawaii, and “Aurelius O. Carpenter, Photographer of the Mendocino Frontier,” about Grace Hudson’s father, who also documented his surroundings.

Follow this link to the interview 

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