Michigan State University masthead


Artist biography


Pet-A-Gish-Go-Qua (Cloud Lady)
Saginaw Chippewa/Grand River Ottawa
Haslett, Michigan

Image of Anna Crampton

Third-generation black ash basketmaker Anna Crampton grew up on a small farm in Rosebush, Michigan. The daughter of Michael and Eliza Neyome, she has vivid childhood memories of playing in the large baskets her mother made, then listening intently as she was told how the baskets were constructed. To this day, her mother's sewing basket design remains a signature style for Crampton, who has passed on the tradition to three of her six living children.

Crampton is an active and much sought-after teacher of basketmaking who has instructed dozens of native and non-native beginners. Her husband John assists her with the arduous preparation of the black ash splints required in the basketmaking process. They travel frequently and enjoy meeting other artists at pow wows. They generously share their skills in workshops involving schools, art groups, and tribal gatherings.

Basketmaking is a traditional art form that was once practiced by hundreds of Native Americans in the Great Lakes region. Baskets were made for a wide variety of uses in the home, fields, and woods. They were also sold to supplement family incomes. Basketmaking is an endangered practice today because it is such a painstaking craft; few artists remain who are knowledgeable and skilled in all of the necessary steps. It can take an entire day to locate a suitable black ash tree. The trunk must be straight, free of knots, of a certain age, and harvested at just the right time of year. Once the tree is cut down, it is hauled out of the woods and cut into sections. The sections are then pounded to separate the rings of growth into strips (splints), which are used to weave the baskets.

In 1991, Crampton was honored as a master artist in the Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program coordinated by the Michigan State University Museum and sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Her work is included in many public and private collections.

Artist's work

Object measurements and display specifications:

Anna Crampton
Sewing basket, wastebasket, pencil holder, 1994
Black ash
Sewing basket with lid: 6 1/2" h.
Wastebasket: 13" h.
Pencil holder: 4" h
Sisters of the Great Lakes Collection
MSU Museum 7594.9
MSU Museum 7594.10
MSU Museum 7594.8

Objects held in free-standing vitrine: base height = 33 inches; base width = 24 x 24 inches; acrylic height is 19 inches. Wastebasket sits on floor of case. Pencil basket sits on box plinth - dimensions:  h: 2"  l: 3 1/4"  w: 3 1/4". Sewing Basket with lid sits on box plinth - dimensions:  h: 3 1/4"  l: 6"  w: 6".