Umatilla Cornhusk False Embroidery
Sanna Parikka, OFN Intern
Artist Michael Johnson and his Apprentice Melinda Broncheau from the Confererated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation practice traditional cornhusk twining, creating unique cornhusk hats, baskets, and bags. Johnson’s art combines traditional twining techniques and designs with modern materials, including wool-based yarns. He learned this traditional art form from various elders who all have inspired him to pass the tradition on. The craft is called “false embroidery” due to the special technique of tying the husk ends.
For his apprenticeship, Johnson taught the intricate method of twining a traditional cornhusk hat. The creation of the hat included numerous steps from the design and twining of the base and the bear pattern to the finishing touches of decorative pearls and feathers, inside lining, and buck skin edging. The twining is the most tedious part of the process. It can take up to one hour for an experienced cornhusk twiner to finish just one row of a larger piece – working two to three hours per day, it took Melinda Broncheau nearly 70 days to complete the hat.
Cornhusk hats are often used in ceremonial namings, food gatherings, and traditional dancing. This particular hat will be a gift to Melinda Broncheau’s daughter.