What: Community Christmas Bazaar

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10

Where: Azalea Middle School gym, 505 Pacific Ave., and Brookings-Harbor High School cafeteria, 625 Pioneer Road

Website: www.brookingsharborbazaar.com

Ruth Burita’s fingers are almost a blur as she tucks a pine needle in there, whips a half-stitch in there, all belying the serene and thoughtful process it is for her to make pine-needle baskets.

Burita was born into the Inupiat, Alaska, clan on Cook Inlet, whose people routinely made folk art from the materials surrounding them. She spent much of her time — and still does — crafting detailed mosaics using mirrors as the backdrop.

“I come from a creative family,” the Harbor woman said. “My mother made moose earrings, we made grass and bark baskets; weaving pine baskets was just a natural.”

But it wasn’t until her husband and she settled in South Yosemite, California, that she learned how to take needles and weave them into items of art and function.

She has since taught basket weaving at the Oakhurst Woodcarvers Rendezvous and sold her work in numerous county, artisan and holiday fairs. Since moving here, she’s had her handicraft on display at Manley Art Center on Oak Street in Brookings.

Next Saturday, Nov. 10, Burita joins about 100 other artisans at the middle and high schools in Brookings in her debut at the 49th annual Community Holiday Bazaar. There she will feature her baskets — many with wood bases into which traditional intricate Indian totems have been carved or placed in bas relief, others with deep red and green needles interwoven with bright turquoise beads.

The first basket Burita wove was using the Jefferson and Ponderosa pine trees on her property in Yosemite. But she knows from her clan that the supply list is limitless in nature: seagrass, kelp, bark, reeds.

She gave her first basket away to a film company that came through town; one of the men insisted on using it in a TV show he was producing.

People are drawn to the intricacies of the tight weave, the subtle coloring, the textures brought to the forefront. It doesn’t surprise Burita.

The work itself is a contemplative one, starting with the collection and sorting of the needles, which are then cleaned, dyed and sorted by size. Her favorite needle to work with is that from the Ponderosa pine, a tall, stately tree whose scaly bark has the unique aroma of vanilla or butterscotch.

The stiff needles from the Ponderosa pine grow up to 8 inches long, ideal for making baskets. Burita noted, too, that it’s easiest to work with needles that fell from the same tree.

“Each tree is different,” she said. “It’s like people. You can be born into the same family, but you’re not alike.

Each is treated almost like family, as well.

“You honor each pine needle by running your hand all the way down the bunch,” she said, adding that after that, the basket pretty much makes itself. “When you begin, each basket is telling a different story. You have to listen. It’s like listening to the elders,” she said, thoughtfully. “They tell you what to do; you have no control.

“It’s also creating a song, each basket is so different,” she continued. “I’ve been gifted with beautiful songs.”

Woodworkers know that mystique, Burita said, when they start with a piece of wood and a goal — and despite all their determination, end up with something completely different. It’s as if the wood had something else in mind, and no amount of carving, shaping or hewing would make it different from what nature intended.

Many of Burita’s baskets have a thin wooden base, sliced from pistachio, manzanita, redwood — or whatever might be at hand.

She drills holes around the perimeter, through which she will thread the needles.

Burita takes several bundles in hand and wraps them with artificial sinew, weaving new needles into the center of the coil as she progresses. Sometimes, she’ll incorporate a bead or weave a wave into the coil to give it a unique look.

A pile of fallen needles lays scattered at her feet by the time she’s done; Burita will take them and make another basket; nothing goes to waste.

Depending on her mood, she might make a basket one color, or alternate colors in the coils. Sometimes she removes the cap that holds the needles together — each tree has a certain number — or keeps the cap to give them a gnarled finish.

The final step is to brush them with a light layer of beeswax, to give them a smooth sheen and support, and perhaps add an adornment of an arrowhead or stamped clay art.

“What I love most is the creativity,” Burita said. “The creativity, the story the elders tell, make each basket unique.”

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