Kelly Church & Cherish Parrish

Michigan, USA

The weaver inherently becomes a carrier of our culture, similar to the way that a mother is a carrier of culture in the form of her child . . .

The Indigenous basket weaving practices of mother Kelly Church and daughter Cherish Parrish embody the continuity of traditions through kinship. Familial ties and cultural teachings sustain the black ash weaving practice, while at the same time, the forms that Church and Parrish’s baskets take also comment on the fragility of such traditions. By weaving a basket in the form of the emerald ash borer beetle, which is destroying the very trees on which the weaving is based, Church points us towards the complex ecological relations that underlie cultural forms. Meanwhile, the inclusion within the basket of a flash drive that contains weaving teachings also acknowledges that the ways in which traditions may be passed on are evolving. Parrish’s basket of a pregnant woman directly references how the basket-weaving tradition relies on generational learning, metaphorically relating the basket and the human body as creative vessels that carry culture onwards. — AY

Making Kin Categories

Sustaining Traditions — Digital Memories
2018, black ash, sweetgrass, RIT, copper vial, Emerald Ash Borer, flashdrive.
The Next Generation — Carriers of Culture
2018, black ash and sweetgrass
Artist Reflection —

The green in this basket represents the emerald ash borer. This beautiful insect has destroyed ash trees, essential to making ash baskets, throughout the Upper Midwest. How can we together sustain these teachings nature has given us despite invasive species and the loss of clean water and air? Placed within this basket, which is shaped like a Fabergé egg, is a flash drive containing all the teachings of the past, all of the things happening today, and all of the things we need to do in the future to sustain this tradition of basket weaving.             — Kelly Church

Everything I learn and do plays a role in shaping the next generation of weavers and the Anishinaabe Kwe. The weaver inherently becomes a carrier of our culture, similar to the way that a mother is a carrier of culture in the form of her child. The pregnant woman is the most universally meaningful form that the human body can take, a universal ideal for something beautiful and appreciated.   — Cherish Parrish

About Kelly Church & Cherish Parrish

Kelly Church, a fifth-generation basket maker who grew up in southwestern Michigan, is a member of the Pottawatomi/Ottawa, Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Tribe. Church studied the Odawa language from her paternal grandmother and learned black ash basketry from her father, Bill Church, and cousin, John Pigeon. She, in turn, has taught her daughter, Cherish Parrish. Church won the National Museum of the American Indian Artist Leadership Program Award in 2010, a Native Scholars Fellowship in 2016 from the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Endowment for the Arts named her as one of its National Heritage Fellows in 2018.  She has an AFA degree from the Institute of American Indian Studies and a BFA degree from the University of Michigan.

Cherish Parrish is a sixth-generation, black ash basket weaver, having learned the craft from her mother, artist Kelly Church. Using the pliable bark of black ash trees that she harvests from the swamps of the Michigan wetlands, Parrish weaves tightly woven baskets. While she continues the tradition of free form weaving, her work was transformed with the introductions of weaving around a mold. She also creates birchbark bitings in the tradition of the Anishinaabe of Michigan. Parrish was one of the recipients of the Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program in 2006, won best of show in the 2012 Eiteljorg Museum Indian Market, and also participated in the 2006 Smithsonian Folklife Festival as a “Next Generation Weaver.”

Kindred Artists