Jeremy Frey Bear has tapped into the art of working with his hands. Belonging to the Passamaquoddy tribe and living in an Indian Township in northeastern Maine, Bear specializes in traditional basket weaving. His skill at the hand-woven art form has scored him numerous awards, including placing first in the Outside the Southwest category in Basketry at the 2016 Santa Fe Indian Market. He’s also the recipient of the 2011 Best of Show at the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Heard Indian Market.
His family were basket weavers for many generations, but he didn’t take on the art seriously until early adulthood. He learned weaving from his mother. “A lot of my inspiration comes from within,” Frey said in an interview at the Heard Museum Guild 2011 Indian Market. “It’s like someone is trying to tell me what to do. And other times, I’m trying to make stuff up. It works both ways.”
His specialty is in ash fancy baskets, taken from the Wabanaki “People of the Dawn,” legacy weaving style from Maine.
He admits that he is selective in the materials he uses. The use of brown ash is embedded in his tribal culture, so when gathering it, he looks for growth rings, disease and straightness. He might look at 100 trees before making a selection. Then he uses an axe to break up the fibers before sitting down for the intricate weaving process. He also uses sweetgrass, which he collects in the marshes in early summer, at the height of its growth season before it browns due to cold months.
To see more of his works, visit jeremyfreybaskets.com. ♦