The History of Potato Stamps

Potato stamps have become a household craft in Canada gaining popularity in the 1960’s through the 70’s. With potato stamps coming back to the forefront of sustainable crafts where did they originate from?

Potato stamps originated from the early 1900’s when Canada and the United States were seeing a boom in tourism and an influx of settlers coming to live in the new region. In order to keep up with all the new people coming to visit, Indigenous people in the surrounding areas started to decorate their baskets to sell to tourists. The indigenous communities consisted of the 6 nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (Upper New york and eastern Canada, now better known today as the Mi ‘ kmaq nation). During this time the making and decorating of baskets became a peaceful way to diversify their economy and step away from traditional trading as the baskets initially started off as. Many white Europeans were influenced by the cubism art movement taking place across Europe, which is one of the many reasons why potato stamping seemed to catch the attention of passing tourists. The traditional way to decorate the baskets was to use freshly harvested vegetables (mainly squash & potatoes) and use herbal dyes to decorate the ash splint baskets. 

Most baskets were decorated with light floral designs and would hold native fruit to the area to attract clients, this was a way for Indigenous people to hold onto their roots during uncertain times. Many children would pick fruit and watch relatives weave and design the baskets emphasizing the importance of verbal storytelling and language as Indignenous education. When the basket business would pick up, some even took it upon themselves to go door to door selling their baskets. As time went on potato stamps became an affordable way for Canadians to decorate their homes by making their own potato stamps to decorate the walls of their homes. Often young children used them to create cards, art prints and even to decorate their clothing. 


Today, these historic baskets range from $150 CAD - $1,757 CAD, so if you want to cough up a pretty penny it could be yours. Although not traditional, Made by a Potato’s hand crafted cards add a little bit of fun to all celebrations, bringing you rich Canadian history in a new and modern way. Shop our new collection here:

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