Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tavern Pipe Holder and Stone Pipes

This tavern pipe holder and stone pipe set were made by Chris Hays, Chris meticulously hand carved these four delicate stone pipes this concept is based from a original pipe-holder and pipe set dating from the Revolutionary War period held in a private collection. These simple elbow shaped pipes were polished to a high gloss finish. It draws upon the imagination why or how the original Kaolin Pipes were replaced. Was this piece made for trade to the Europeans or made by a Native American who adopted a European lifestyle? It will be on display in Gettysburg June 16-18Th at the History Meets the Arts art show.   

Quilled Birchbark A Forgotten Curiosity

 Quilled bark objects were a staple in the tourist trade. As Europeans came to North America sometimes they would seek out objects made by North American Indians to take back home to add to there curiosity cabinets and to provide proof of their travels and adventures in a far away land. Some of the Most well known ethnographic collections in existence today are due to this practice.  One result of all this traveling and acquiring of objects can  muddle and confuse the provenance of the original piece and makers. A birch bark box bought on the St. Lawrence doesn't quarantee a orgin of the object. With all the trading among the various tribes in North America objects an materials travel a amazingly long distance at times.  Long before the arrival of Europeans the Aboriginal peoples of the Northeast had developed great skill in the use of birchbark to construct things like canoes and wigwams to storage containers and cooking utensils.Quilled birchbark objects were however a contact event fusing aboriginal knowledge with entrepreneurship and artistry of Quebec nuns. In 1714 during a outbreak of epidemic disease an Urusuline nun named Mere St. Joseph journeyed from her convent at Trois Rivieres to Quebec City to receive instruction in the preparation of medicines from the nursing sisters of the Hotel Dieu. In the convent's Annals written about five years later we read that as a gesture of reciprocity Mere St. Joseph offered to teach the two of the nuns the Ursuline specialty of embroidery after first teaching them to practice on church vestments she introduced them to bark work; "And then Mother St. Joseph demonstrated before us the making of boxes in the Indian style (boetes sauvages) in order to teach us how to work in bark; this inspired in several of the sisters the desire to try to make them, and they perfected the art so well that, the next year their works were sought after as examples of proper workmanship and good taste,of the type that, since that time, we have sold every year for small sums, and that furnishes us also with things to give as presents to people to whom we are obliged."  During the eighteenth-century Urusuline Nuns were earning income from the sale of moose hair-and quill embroidery  bark objects.The Huron and Iroquoian peoples also seemed to excel at this art form, as seen from evidence of surving objects. Perhaps the highest pinnacle of this art can be seen in the many known quilled birchbark chairs that have survived and stood the trials of time, it is reported that the majority of these chairs were made by the Micmac people.   These art forms have seemed to be loss and not widely practiced by today's contemporary artist. With the lack of practitioners today my Wife Mariah has become inspired to relearn and recreate some of these objects. We live in a region lacking in White Birch trees she has had to contact friends and family in other regions to import the bark itself but other materials such as Spruce trees,Basswood grow in our area  and are readily available we also grow our own sweet grass which is also seen on original quilled bark objects used as bindings and borders. So with the materials gathered and my experience with natural dyes  she decided to start out with a relatively small piece it is a Birchbark pouch based from a  a original housed at Canada's Museum  of Civilization they have labeled the original maker as Ottawa? It is a unique and special piece as there are very few of these kind in existence. Mariah has spent long hours drawing out the pattern and meticulously poking the holes and pulling the quills thru. I can tell you first hand that she earned this piece as her hands were poked continually by the Quills drawing blood on occasion. She spent many many long hours constructing this piece I'm suprised by what she produces taking care of a family with two young children isn't easy as most women can tell you. This piece is a one of a kind piece fitted for any Curiosity Cabinet or Collection. It will be on display in Gettysburg June 16-18Th at the History Meets the Arts art show.

Made by Mariah Blake 

Original Quilled boxes 1890-1910 Walpole Island area

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Indian Women's Wrap Skirt

This past Winter I was approached by a esteemed collector of American Indian Art. He wanted me to create a Women's Wrap skirt for his Significant other. I was given full liberty in its design and construction except for the color of the wool to be used she was fond of the color blue! With that simple request I was off to work.Many long hours went into this piece It feels exceptionally good to know I also had a part in the production of the Wool Cloth (Stroud Cloth).  This piece is not a Musuem reproduction but a compilement of known examples incorporating there design elements.
"The dress which particulary distinguishes the women is a petticoat or strowd,blue, red or black,made of a piece of cloth about two yards long, adorned with red, blue or yellow bands laid double and bound about the body."
David Zeisberger: History of the northern American Indians 
“The women, since the time we first traded with them, wrap a fathom of the half breadth of Stroud Cloth* round their waist and tie it with a leathern belt, which is commenly covered with brass runners or buckles: but this sort of loose petticoat, reaches only to their hams, in order to shew their exquisitely fine proportioned limbs.”
James Adair:History of the American indian 

"The stroud is formed by doubling the cloth so far as to have one fold a quarter of a yard below the other; this is wrapped around the waist, and reaches a little below the knee"
Elizabeth Hicks: A True Romance of the American War of  Independence 1775 to 1783 
                        American Indian Womens Wrap skirts Ilustrated From 18Th Century Paintings

" American Indian Family" by Benjamin West

"Mohawk Woman and Baby" Artist Unknown