Duchess selects three baskets made by Mi'kmaq weaver
By Wayne Young
Months before the royal couple arrived on P.E.I., Mi’kmaq basket weaver Nora Richard had a vision of the Duchess taking one of her hand-woven baskets back to London.
The vision was almost spot on - “almost” only because Katherine Middleton actually selected all three of her baskets as gifts. They were offered to the royal couple by Lennox Island first Nation Chief Darlene Bernard during their Island visit July 4.
Richard, who designs and weaves baskets in her Rufus Street, Summerside home, said she couldn’t have been happier when she learned the Duchess liked her baskets.
“I was at work when my sister called me and said the princess picked them all. I was just expecting her to pick one, maybe, the fancy one, but not all three.”
The five weeks leading up to the royal visit was hectic for a lot of people, but none more than the Mi’kmaq basket weaver.
Bernard asked Richard May 24 if she would weave six baskets for the royal visit. They were all completed by June 30 and the chief selected three to offer to the royals.
To complete the project, Richard worked long evenings after her day-job was complete - frequently 5 p.m. till midnight or later. While she loves making baskets, she said she did feel the pressure.
“When you’re making a basket for Kate Middleton you’re going to fuss with your wood and it’s going to take double the time,” she said. “I don’t even remember the drive home (after talking to Bernard) because these baskets were just popping in my mind.”
One, in particular, that she designed came slowly together row by row. She said she had no idea when she put the bottom on what the rest of the basket would look like, but when she felt she was getting bogged down she’d leave it for awhile, and later she’d get a picture in her head of next row’s design.
By times, it was frustrating, particularly the top of the basket.
“I took it apart four times. I said, ‘Oh my God, if there’s ever a basket that’s going to make me start smoking again it might be this one.’ I just tried to stay calm and do it, and I got through it. It came together pretty well.”
The final basket she made - one selected by the duchess - wouldn’t have happened without a lot of support and assistance from her one of her mentors, Ann MacIsaac, Richard said.
She had a picture in her head of what the basket should look like but she feared she was running out of time to make it. But with MacIsaac’s help it came together, the two women working long into the evenings for several nights.
“Ann is like that, she can understand me,” Richard said. “If I mention something more than once she’ll say sit down and let’s talk about it, describe it to me. It’s going to get made so let’s get started.”
Richard learned to weave baskets four years ago at the Basket Weavers Cooperative in Richmond. Her instructors were MacIsaac and Francis Pickle. “I couldn’t have asked for better teachers.”
The feeling is clearly mutual.
MacIsaac said Richard is very creative and actually dreams up the designs for many of her baskets.
“She did a beautiful job, absolutely gorgeous. It’s quite an honour to know that Katherine and William took three,” she said.
Richard’s twin sister, Noella Moore, also helped out with the baskets that were selected by the Duchess, sewing the lining into several of them.
Richard said it’s still hard to believe her handiwork now resides with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. She’s come a long way in this art.
“If someone would have told me five years ago I was going to learn how to make baskets and eventually go on to make one for the future Queen, I would have said you’ve got rocks in your head,” she laughed.