Birch trees are a common site across the North woods. One of the few hardwoods adapted to the sever cold of the Northern winter. Its wood has long been used for snowshoe frames and paddles, and the uses for its bark are as imbedded in the history of the North for as long as there have been Native people living there. Everything from canoes, to baskets, to covering of their shelters. But the woods skill of weaving birch bark was something I not only had never seen done before, but wouldn't have believed its versatility, and durability, when worked in this unique and fascinating way.
The origins of this craft are Northern European, the aboriginal Samer people of Scandinavia and Russia, have worked birch bark in this way for centuries, and fashion everything from baskets to shoes. They have also elevated much more artistic uses of birch bark to a high art form of much sought after collectables and museum pieces.
When I was first introduced to this woods craft during a chance encounter with a gentleman in Northern Minnesota, I was immediately impressed not only by its uniqueness, but by the durability, functionality, and beauty of the pack he had crafted. I knew immediately that I would have to learn how to make a pack like this.
After not only spending the better part of a year getting a whole education on the collecting and working the proper birch bark for this kind of work, (all birch is not the same). I spent 7 days under his patient and skilled tutelage to create my first pack.
Although these birch bark packs aren't traditional North American crafts as we might think, like brown ash packs or snowshoes, they certainly are a very fascinating part of the Northern culture. Again, I feel very fortunate to have had a skilled and patient teacher share with me his knowledge and craftsmanship. That allows me to carry on this valuable craft. I think you will agree how unique and beautiful these packs are, and as far as I am aware, I am the only one in North America crafting, and offering these packs.
How they're made:
Designed for men, this pack measures 15 inches wide by 8 inches deep, and 17 inches tall. The 1.25 inch birch bark strips are double woven on the diagonal, once on the inside, and again on the outside of the pack, so that there are 4 layers of bark at each weave. The natural flexibility and durability of the birch is enhanced with several treatments with warm neat's-foot oil, giving the bark the feel of well treated leather. The adjustable harness is a full 8 gauge high quality leather, and all the attachment rigs are solid brass.
Men's Birch Bark Basket - $600.00
This smaller pack is my own design, and is much better suited for a woman. The pack is 12 inches wide, 5 inches deep, and 17 inches tall. It is woven in 3/4 inch birch strips, and also fully treated with neat's-foot oil. Also, using the same high quality leather as the harness on the large pack, but resized for this smaller pack. All attachment rings are also brass.
Women's/Youth Birch Bark Pack - $450.00
Birch Bark Creel
A natural extension of these unique packs, given my interest in fishing creels, is this design. Using the same principals as the ladies pack, and downsizing it as a functional fishing creel. Being my original design, these are truly unique. Measuring 10 inches wide, 5 inches deep, and 10 inches tall, I have woven a fish hole in the cover. The leather strap that is placed over the shoulder to carry the creel is adjustable. And as with my packs, the high quality leather is treated with neat's-foot oil, and uses all brass fittings.
Birch Bark Creel - $375.00