The theme for my guild's challenge this month is Native American/Southwest. I may have mentioned previously on this blog my former love affair with Native American art. It began as a college student as I became aware of environmental issues. A fan of Greenpeace and their ship, The Rainbow Warrior, at that time I learned the Native American Prophecy that gave the Greenpeace ship it's name:
"When the earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the earth from many colors, classes, creeds and who by their actions and deeds shall make the earth green again. They will be known as the warriors of the rainbow." -- Old Native American Prophecy
It was this quote that inspired my first environmental artwork, which was a wood cut print. I guess because it was a time of exploring different ideas to find that which resonated with my soul, I delved into Native American stories. I became fascinated with the symbolism, and their respect for the earth and every living thing captivated me and mirrored my own beliefs. My entire senior drawing portfolio was based upon Native American art.
Later, I learned how to weave a dreamcatcher. At the time, there was a bit of a craze for them, and I wanted to make one as a gift for a special friend (the mom of one of my best friends). She had Native American blood in her ancestry and she kept a collection of Native American figurines and southwest decor. This bit of my history was the basis for this piece. I knew I wanted to create something incorporating the liquid polymer coated string, so I decided to revisit my history and make a dream catcher. But I wanted something more, I looked at medicine wheels and wanted to incorporate some of the symbolism from medicine wheels into the piece. Here is a great image that shows some of the symbolism and colors associated with the 4 directions on a medicine wheel:
Thinking about the piece further, I decided to try to make my own feather, using the string coated with liquid polymer idea with which I've been playing recently. The feather alone took a full day to make, that's a lot of string! Have a look:
I decided to make the frame of the dreamcatcher/medicine wheel resemble a wooden branch. But, I didn't have enough packages of clay in tones of brown, so I began by wrapping my base support with scrap clay. I decided that I really liked the mottled undertones from the scraps, so I just smeared some burnt sienna and black paints onto the surface so that the clay could give a sort of underpainting effect to the circular bases. A smear of transparent liquid polymer with a scattering of embossing powder after curing gave just the right finish. I wove the dreamcatcher part with string and coated it with transparent liquid polymer.
I sketched out some ideas as to how to create the medicine wheel part of the piece. I wanted something that looked authentic, so I decided to create a piece of faux leather and chose to paint my four direction animal and color symbols onto that surface. For this piece, I mixed up some buckskin color using translucent, ecru and raw sienna Premo. Tearing the edges gave me the look I wanted, of an animal pelt that was cut with crude tools. The surface was given a faux leather treatment which involved texturing it, adding hints of burnt sienna acrylic paint and spot scorching to bring out a darker amber in selected areas. The stylized 4 direction animals were painted on top of the faux leather piece with acrylic paint in their symbolic colors.
The hardest part of this entire piece was threading and securing the faux leather to the rings! I first tried to use the same string I used in the dreamcatcher and feather, but it kept breaking when I pulled too tight and was too loose to hold the heft of the faux leather. I needed something with less give, so thankfully I had a ball of natural hemp cord which was strong enough and taught enough to do the trick. The final touch was to add the feather to the side of the frame and attach some dangling beads. Had I had more time, I would have made some faux turquoise beads for this, but I didn't want to be working until deadline as I did last month... so I opted to raid my bead stash. I chose some turquoise beads that were repurposed from a vintage piece of jewelry I bought from a local place. I'm not quite sure what the original material of these beads is, I'm afraid it might be dyed bone. I was hoping to say this piece is a vegan dreamcatcher since everything I made for it is faux (no sinew, no leather, no feather) but I can't say that due to my hunch about the beads. Ah well... maybe I will eventually take the time to make those faux turquoise beads and swap them out... might be a selling point on etsy! ;)
Here's the back of the piece, for those who are curious:
I am really pleased with this, but I don't feel the need to keep this one, so it will go to my etsy shop... It was a nice return to a former passion (theme) and all went fairly smooth with this project. I was really pleased with the faux feather, and it was fun to create! I'll be moving on from the lpc covered string idea for a while, as I revisit another technique which I explored a year ago. I'm hoping to write an article based on my upcoming experimentations and I'm excited about the new ideas that are brewing for the potential article! Hopefully I'll still be able to come up with pieces for the next few challenges while I work on my article pieces... stay tuned!
I'll try once again to post a voting reminder... voting for this challenge opens October 1st and will close on October 7th at midnight. Please leave me a comment below and give me some feedback on this piece and anything else you care to share about Native American art! Thanks for visiting!