Friday, June 26, 2009

Double Curves



I love a creative challenge. So when the crafting chain on facebook finally made it's way into my circle of friends, I wanted in. The basic concept was the first 5 people who responded to a friends note, would get something made by them. Of course you in return had to post your own note and make something for the first 5 people who responded to yours. I decided to make it a challenge and come up with something new.

I sort of stare into space, and become despondent when I am creating. I "design" in my head, not always, but occasionally. My fiance` looks at me strange, and I say "What? I'm designing." He knows now just to accept it and leave me be. I knew I wanted to draw them a pendant. How? Well, that's why I was designing in my head. I was trying to not only picture it, but figure out how to make it functional.

I wanted to do a pendant with floral designs called "double curves", then add beads somehow. The only way I could think of to get the detail, was to actually draw the design out on paper. I added a leather back and beaded around the edge. I have to say, they came out even better then how they looked in my head. I love when that happens.

Now let me tell you a little about double curves. Double curves are Eastern woodland designs typically found in bead work . Today you can find them on leather, drums, clothing, baskets, pottery, jewelry, and of course on various beaded work. If you go to a pow wow hear in the North East you are sure to come across them at some point. When I was a kid (and even now) my mom used them on the breach cloths of her scale cornhusk dolls. Back then, I didn't realize they had a name or a meaning.

The basic design symbolizes balance, give and take, teaching and learning, There is a center point, at which a flower usually grows, and it branches to the left, and it branches the same way to the right.
The left side is the female side, which is for giving, teaching and nurturing. The right side is the male side, for the strength to take in and learning.

I began using double curves on my pottery. I made some plates and put the inricate double curves on them, but I always wondered what they would look like in color. The first ones I did were in pastels, but I couldn't quite get the detail I wanted, so I started doing them on black paper, with color pencils.

This drawing is mostly in blue, which would symbolize an awareness for a deeper meaning in life, and the flowers are red which stands for energy, and a love for earth and people.

I often wonder if all cultures have a symbol for balance. Native Americans have several, double curves, the medicine wheel, butterflies. Probably the most recognized symbols among the Iroquois people, are the Twins. They are the symbols of good and evil. But, that's a very basic kind of balance. I prefer the positive message of the double curves, a reminder of how we need to be nurturing, and strong at the same time.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Richard Chrisjohn, my grampa



I tell people all the time, my grandfather was a renown woodcarver. I say it, and think, perhaps people don't believe it. Maybe it's my own skeptical nature which makes me wonder if they don't believe me? Truly, he was more then just a wood carver, he was a visionary, an educator, a mentor, an activist, an artist, our Oneida Chief and more importantly my family's patriarch.

Sometimes I forget who he was in the eyes of the world, because to me he was just Gramp. I remember seeing his "followers" come up to him at pow wows and watching him carve or listening to him talk. Everyone seemed to know him. He was interesting, and the more I think about it, I realize, he deserved the accolades.

You may ask, what brought on my ramblings about my grandfather?

I visited the NYS museum today with my parents and my niece and nephew. We walked through the museum. My nephew ooo'ed and my niece repeatedly asked to go to the carousel (completely my fault, I should have never told her there was one there). Finally, we made it to the Native Peoples of New York. The kids really loved it, especially the long house. As, we walked down the little ramp there against the wall was my grandfather's water drum and Condolence Cane! How special it was to see my grandfather's woodwork there in the museum, where thousands of people will see it, to be able to turn to a stranger and say "My grampa made that."?

photo curtesy of the Iroquois Museum


Gramp instilled in his children, the desire and importance to perpetuate the Iroquois culture. By his example we all strive to educate ourselves, our children and everyone who is interested that our rich cultural heritage is thriving and will continue to do so beyond the seventh generation. Sure he may have profited by selling his art to museums and collectors, but his carvings, jewelry and other artwork will be on display for ever.

He will forever be an inspiration for me and my family to continue in his footsteps.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sky Woman Fell

Every culture has a creation story. The Iroquois people believe the first person on this earth was a woman who fell from the "Sky World" we call Sky Woman. Here is the first part of the creation story in a poem I wrote:



Sky-Woman fell from the sky.
Faster and faster descending,
belly full with child,
she fell.

Birds gathered
with outstretched wings
and caught Sky-Woman,
she who brought the world to life.

Turtle lifted his giant head
from the stillness
of the deep-blue water encompassed globe
and offered his strong shell to house a new world.

Muskrat selflessly dove
into the deepest darkest depths of the ocean
and scraped the very bottom
with the tippy tip of his tiny claw,
giving his life for creation.

The other animals placed the speck on Turtle’s back.

Sky-Woman danced in a circle.
Larger and larger the land grew.
Creating the Earth,
she danced.

"Copyright 2005 by Jessica Wyant"