Patterned on Nature: Donna Sakamoto Crispin

A basketmaker weaves natural and multicultural influences into her pieces.

| March/April 2008

  • Weaver Donna Sakamoto Crispin uses grasses, leaves, bark and twigs to create baskets and other three-dimensional sculptures.
  • A 6-foot willow mother cradles her baby. (Private collection, piece not available for sale)

Earth-inspired art: Since 1986, Donna Sakamoto Crispin has been creating contemporary baskets that incorporate Pacific Northwest indigenous techniques, Japanese aesthetics, and materials and inspiration from the natural world. Her work ranges from baskets of handmade paper and cedar bark to life-size figures woven from willow branches.

Melding cultures: To master traditional techniques, Sakamoto Crispin attends workshops by Japanese and aboriginal instructors. "The influence from other cultures isn’t something I take lightly," says Sakamoto Crispin, a third-generation Japanese American. "I try to be respectful."

Home grown: Sakamoto Crispin hand-gathers about 80 percent of her basketry materials. She grows several willow species in her garden for the twigs, and she harvests leaves from daylily and iris plants. Weaving materials fill two bedrooms of her Eugene, Oregon, home.

Wild gathered: With the landowners’ permission, Sakamoto Crispin collects sedge and cattail in the wild. She’s also part of a regional basketry guild that harvests bark from cedar trees marked for logging. Otherwise, the bark is removed and discarded when the trees arrive at the mill.

Nature as muse: Regional knowledge also informs her work. "During a lecture by a Pacific Northwest Native American woman, I got the image in my head of making a cedar-bark salmon," Sakamoto Crispin says. "Cedar and salmon are both integral to her culture." She donates 10 percent of her salmon-figure profits to a fish-conservation organization.

Passing it on: Sakamoto Crispin regularly teaches basketry at arts centers. "I like being able to show people how to use their local resources," she says. "They don’t have to go out and buy things to make something beautiful."

Online gallery: View Sakamoto Crispin’s artwork at

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