Coastal Marin Artists Gallery

Lina Prairie: Kelp Basketry

November 19 - December 31, 2011

Curated by Lucy Van Sands Seeburg

For decades now I’ve been walking and birding in the Point Reyes area.  Living here in West Marin has meant that I explore in a different way-more leisurely, purposefully, and open-endedly.  I find myself examining everything.  I started noticing scraps, branches and tangles of seaweed, wet and dry, on the beach. I’d bring small bits home and try to identify them.   Over time I learned their Latin names.  Then, a one-day class on making baskets out of kelp revealed a world of possibilities.  There was no denying the thrill and surprise of working with kelp.  A week later I sat by myself in my yard and made another basket. That was 4 years and almost 300 baskets ago.

Nowadays when I go to the  beach I wear a vest with many roomy pockets and places for my jack knife and hand-pruners.  I carry  a sturdy bag that I’m still able to tote when it’s slightly overfilled.  Now I’m seeking more than a combination walking, looking, oxygen. excitement and quiet.  My kelp work is a natal extension of my beach exploration.

Seaweeds are neither plants nor animals, but classified in the kingdom of Protista along with bacteria and other misfits.  Curiously, even scientists refer to them as plants- perhaps because they posses many basic plant-like characteristics. Along the Pacific Coast there are 3 main seaweed groups: the red, green, and brown algae.  My primary kelp interest as a basket maker  has been with two abundant specie of brown algae commonly washed up on Bolinas shore: Bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) and Walking kelp (Pterygohera californica).  Walking kelp has a life span of up to 25 years and  growth rings like trees do.  Bull kelp is an annual, growing several inches a day.  The form we see lives 210 days and reaches lengths of 120 feet.

Lina Prairie grew up in the countryside of southern Minnesota, greatly influenced by her mother’s interest in making all sorts of things, including art, and her father’s  interest in medicine, science and the outdoors.  When Lina came to California in 1966 to study Slavic languages and literature at U.C. Berkeley  she saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  After her forty-year career as a teacher, she moved to West Marin.