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Passamaquoddy brothers honor tradition, shape future

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Husdon Museum Husdon Museum

ORONO — Passamaquoddy brothers and basketweavers Jeremy Frey and Gabe Frey will be two of the more than 50 artists at the 19th Annual Maine Indian Basketmakers Sale & Demonstration on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the University of Maine’s Hudson Museum.  

The event, which is free and open to the public, features baskets, carvings and beadwork, as well as demonstrations, storytelling, music, drumming and dancing.

“Yankee Magazine” described Jeremy’s fancy baskets as “small monuments to perfection.” In 2010, at age 32, he was the youngest of the 50 recipients of $50,000 fellowships awarded by United States Artists for the “caliber and impact” of their work. In 2011, Jeremy’s basket entry won Best of Show at both the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico and at the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market in Arizona.

“I like that people like them [baskets], and I like that people want to talk about it and want to know about the ancient tradition,” said Jeremy, who is from Indian Township in Princeton, Maine. “I am always honored by the way my art is received.”

When he started weaving baskets, Jeremy said he had a lot to learn, including differentiating between white ash trees and brown ash trees. His grandfather ultimately took him along on trips into the woods; Jeremy said his task “was to carry the chain saw and watch and listen.” He says genetic memory, repetition and tutoring from family members helped him hone his skills. He remembers when his mother, Gal Frey, made and sold baskets for a few dollars to buy dinner.

Jeremy strives to honor tradition and be inventive when making baskets. And he carries out all parts of the process, including harvesting trees, preparing wood strips, weaving and making his tools.

Gabe, who specializes in market baskets and pack baskets, will also be part of the holiday market. The brothers, who drew pictures together as children, now often weave side by side and share ideas.

The brothers, members of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, credit it with preserving the ancient tradition.

For more information about the event, visit umaine.edu/hudsonmuseum. To request a disability accommodation, call 581-1904.

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