© Memorial Hall Museum, Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association
"Turn to Nature." This is the advise that Raffia Basketry as a Fine Art authors Gertrude Porter Ashley and Mildred Porter Ashley offered in response to the question "How shall we learn to use Colors?" The Ashleys answered the question with one of their own: "Where shall we find gray in such varied shades as are in clouds and distant mountains: such blues as are in sky and water: such green, brown or russet as are in our meadows? Study the colors in a sunset," they concluded, "and one can scarcely tell where they begin or end."1 One reviewer was convinced that the Pocumtuck Baskets "are woven into color schemes so satisfactorily that what you buy as a basket turns out to be a harmony whose loveliness balances and enhances its utility..."2
A black and white pattern for the "Pansy Design," was published in Raffia Basketry as an Art. The authors suggest that a palate of colors for a prospective basket of this design "may be greatly varied by studying the colors directly from nature."3 Gertrude Ashley's daughter Natalie Ashley Stebbins hand wove this basket and along with her mother and sister wove the raffia baskets which illustrate the Ashleys' Raffia Basketry books. For this work, Natalie has combined the "Pansy Design" border with a "conventional design," woven of pale fibers and contributing subtle texture and visual interest to the whole.