MARIE RUSH SAMUEL
Marie Rush Samuel was born in Kildonan, BC and is from the Uchucklesaht Nation. Samuel’s parents were Warren Rush of Uchucklesaht Nation and Clara Thomas of Ahousaht Nation. Samuel’s paternal grandparents were James and Ellen Rush of Uchucklesaht Nation, and her maternal grandparents were Hippolite and Agnes Thomas of Ahousaht Nation.
It was Samuel’s Gramma Ellen Rush who taught her how to weave basket.s and mats, starting when she was only six years old. They would sell their pieces to tourists who would visit their village. Ellen Rush taught Samuel where to pick the sedge and three corner (reed) grasses used for Nuu-chah-nulth basketry, and also taught her when and how to harvest cedar bark. This process is more involved than collectors realize, as the grasses must be even and properly cured so they do not split or break. Grasses are typically collected in June and early July, and placed in indirect sunlight for bleaching. Once the grass is completely dry, it can be dyed into an assortment of colors used for creating the intricate designs west coast baskets are famed for.
Samuel’s grandmother Ellen was a medicine woman and midwife, often called to remote villages to deliver babies. She did not speak English, and never attended school; instead, Ellen Rush was very knowledgeable about midwifery and all aspects of plant technology from medicine to utilitarian uses. Her role as elder in Samuel’s life was one of passing on traditions and ensuring her children and grandchildren would always remember their traditional and cultural ways.
Samuel says: “It was important in how we walked as First People. I am fortunate for the teachings she shared with me to continue to use our teachings and our culture today. Today I love doing the things she taught me. I treasure them today.”
Marie Rush Samuel’s baskets are a marvel to behold, as she splits her grasses to a fine filament in order to produce exquisite pieces. While many weavers use several pieces of three-corner grass to create thick mat-bottoms, Samuel maintains tradition by beginning her baskets with the same consistency as they are finished with. This is much more time consuming, and is one of the reasons why her pieces fetch higher prices than many baskets sold in the art market.
While most artists weave colorful designs onto neutral backgrounds, Samuel has experimented with reverse-negative techniques, creating her designs in a neutral tone against a colorful back drop. These pieces are less common to see in Nuu-chah-nulth basketry, as are baskets that are woven with cedar bark in place of three-corner grass.