Thursday, November 24, 2011

"I am the day, I am the night"

Finally,  some new work to add to the Blog.   I have been very busy with restoration work currently so I have not made much of my own art lately.  

This mask I just completed for a show on masks that will open December 1st at the Stonington Gallery in Seattle, Washington.    Since it was a mask show and most of the work is in Northwest Coastal style,  I was at a loss as what I should make.  Finally the idea of a horse mask struck me.   So for better or worse,  here it is.  I hope to get photos of it on my horses before I send it off.   

It is beaded on smoked brain tanned elk.   Painted with trade pigments,  and beaded in Czech cut faceted beads.   It also has 14k gold and Sterling silver accent beads on it.   The feathers are Heritage Turkey feathers.   

I hope better photos of it tomorrow.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Father De Smet's Coat

 Its been a busy month.   But I finally have some things to post to the blog.   Recently I was commissioned to reproduce some works for the "Sacred Encounters" project.   This will be a permanent exhibit in the new museum the Coeur d'Alene tribe is now completing and installing.  I will have photos of the work I did for exhibit as soon as the installation is finished.

This jacket took 5 very large and next to perfect smoked mule deer hides to make.   It is sinew sewn, and the decorations on the jacket are cloth insets.  
 Here's a detail of the cut out work and cloth insets.  The vines are mineral pigment paint.
                                                              Back view of jacket.

                                                                    Detail of back.

I was on a very tight deadline, so I had to make this jacket from start to finish as quickly as possible.  It took me about 10 days.    With little sleep.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Protecting your artifacts from UV damage

The last few days I have been working on a restoration project,  which I thought would be a great example to show to those who are collectors of antique material.   This is what too much UV exposure does to Indian artifacts.   It totally destroyed the integrity of the leather which this shirt was made of.  It also has ruined the ermine drops and bleached the hair locks to blonde.   There is no saving hide which this has happened to.    The micro organisms that cause the dry rot eat away at the collagen which binds the leather fibers together.  

The only thing I can do in a case like this is re-build the entire shirt using what parts I can save (in this case the shirt strips and bibs are OK, although slightly fragile.    Hopefully they will survive another 130 years or so. 

So the moral of the story is:  Protect your treasures from the sun and too much light exposure.  It will kill them.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Killing two birds with one stone...Or is that killing two stones with one bird?

Currently I have a commission to make a Buffalo hide incised Parflech for a museum display.   I also have been once again toying with some ideas of art glass, so will be combining the two projects (since they deal with the same subject matter).  Only the materials are different.  

 Incised Buffalo Hide parflech's are pretty rare, especially when you think about the ratio of painted ones in existence to the incised ones that still survive.  They are not all that easy to make either.   They have to be made from buffalo hide in which the hair has been slipped off and the dark brown epidermal is retained.   Not as easy as it sounds.   Usually when you soak a buffalo hide long enough to slip the hair off, its starts to rot and the epidermal layer also comes off too.   So timing is very important in this process, as well as getting hides from a summer kill or fall kill buffalo when the epidermis is at its darkest.  Much like a sun tan on the buffalo.
 This is one I made a few years ago for a commission I had for a entire set of Nez Perce horse gear.   The epidermal layer has to be removed to reveal the white hide underneath.  Again, this involves proper timing.   You cannot do this if the hide is too wet or too dry.   And it takes a constant sharp knife to do this procedure.
 So, in thinking about the incised rawhide parflech,  I also am taking this concept into some art glass I am currently working on.  Yesterday I was able to spend a little time on the floor of the hot shop at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington.   We blew a cylinder that will eventually become a glass "Parfletch"
 This process too is kind of like making a rawhide one.   The glass is colored in layers.  First a light tan color, then a layer of clear glass to protect that,  then a top layer of dark brown glass.   The top layer will then be carved to reveal the tan underneath, making the designs in the glass.  

We also had to drill lots of holes in this glass while it was still molten for attachment of the fringe once the designs are carved and the shine of the glass is taken down with a acid bath.   So...stay tuned for both projects to be posted soon.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quilled Bridle Strips.....Done!

I have finished the quilled bridle strips for a museum installation I am currently working on (Actually I had these done 2 weeks ago, but we all know how busy can be at times! ).   I will also be making several other replicas of material Father DeSmet collected and will also post those when I am finished with them.
Here is a biography of Father DeSmet.  This man did not let grass grow under his feet!

DE SMETPIERRE-JEAN, priest, Jesuit, missionary; b. 30 Jan. 1801 at Dendermonde, diocese of Ghent, Belgium, fifth child and second son of Josse De Smet and his second wife, Marie-Jeanne Buydens; d. 23 May 1873 in St Louis, Missouri.
      Pierre-Jean De Smet’s father, primarily a chandler, was a merchant of considerable means. De Smet’s early education was at home and in various colleges; in his 19th year he entered the Petit Séminaire at Mechlin. In August 1821 he sailed for the United States to begin his noviciate at White Marsh, a Jesuit estate near Baltimore. Eighteen months later he was transferred to Florissant, just north of St Louis, Missouri, where he was ordained on 23 Sept. 1827. As a prefect in St Regis Seminary, a school for Indian boys, 1824–30, he learned something of Indian customs and ways before he was sent to St Louis as treasurer of the college in that city (now St Louis University).
      Father De Smet was for some years plagued with an irritating skin infection, and he was advised by local physicians to visit his native country for a period. Accordingly, he left the United States for Belgium in September 1833 and did not return to St Louis until November 1837. While abroad he found his truemétier – as a recruiter of men, supplies, and money for the Missouri mission. Soon after his return to America he was sent as a missionary to the Potawatomi Indians at Council Bluffs (Iowa); he also visited the Yankton and Santee Sioux with a view to negotiating peace between these tribes.
      De Smet returned to St Louis from Council Bluffs in February 1840, and between 30 April and 31 December of that year made his first journey to the Rocky Mountains to spy out the land, that is to ascertain the prospects for missions among the Indians in those parts, especially among the Flatheads. His plan, a chimerical one, was to establish a reduction such as the Jesuit fathers of the 17th century had established in Paraguay, a mission wherein a white man would never set foot. In 1841, with two fathers and three brothers, he reached the Bitterroot Valley where he founded the mission of Sainte-Marie (Stevensville, Mont.) 35 miles south of present-day Missoula. In the following spring he visited the missionaries at Fort Vancouver (in present-day Vancouver, Wash.), François-Norbert Blanchet* and Modeste Demers, to concert plans for the propagation of the faith in the Oregon country. Between them it was decided that, since assistance in personnel and material was necessary for the success of the mission, Father De Smet should return to the central states and seek permission to visit Europe to obtain these ends. Accordingly, before the close of that year he again crossed the Atlantic, and he returned to the Pacific northwest via Cape Horn, reaching the Columbia River on 31 July 1844 with five additional Jesuits and a group of sisters of Notre-Dame de Namur. The following 12 months were spent in founding new missions and in visiting Sainte-Marie. But, convinced that the very existence of these new missions depended upon a permanent peace with the Blackfeet, the traditional enemies of the Flatheads, he determined to visit the country of the former.
      In August 1845 he began a momentous journey which was to take him into Hudson’s Bay Company territory. From the north end of Pend d’Oreille Lake he cut across country to the valley of the Kootenay River, followed along it to la haute traverse, whence he crossed over to the sources of the Columbia River. Moving down this valley he entered Sinclair Pass, recrossed the Kootenay and by White Man’s Pass reached the Bow River valley near the site of present-day Canmore, Alberta. Thence he travelled northward to Rocky Mountain House which he reached on 4 October. He was there until the end of the month. Here it was that he met bands of Crees, Chippewas, and Blackfeet. He then set out to visit other Blackfoot bands, wandered aimlessly for days – apparently to the east of the area he had just passed through – and was fortunate to get back to Rocky Mountain House, whence he was conducted to Fort Edmonton, where he spent the winter of 1845–46 as a guest of the HBC. This long trek in the wilderness constitutes De Smet’s significant connection with Canadian history. He had, however, not succeeded in his purpose inasmuch as he had met only one small band of Blackfeet.
      In the spring he set out with a party over the company trail via the upper North Saskatchewan River to Jasper House, where they spent Easter Sunday, 12 April 1846. From there by way of the Wood River they reached the Columbia after terrible sufferings. Three weeks later, on 29 May, they were at Fort Colvile (near present-day Kettle Falls, Wash.) and before the end of June arrived at Fort Vancouver. After a quick visit to the religious houses on the Willamette River, De Smet set out for the upper country with supplies for the missions there; he was back at his first foundation, Sainte-Marie on the Bitterroot, on or about 8 August. He then returned to St Louis. These long journeys of 1845–46 had been made at about the same time and over much of the same territory as the travels of the artist Paul Kane in search of Indians of the west. De Smet did some sketching himself as he journeyed.
      De Smet’s days as a missionary to the Rocky Mountains were over. During the years that were left to him, he made numerous trips to Europe (in all he crossed the Atlantic Ocean 19 times) and, though he was not actually serving on missions, he was deeply involved with them. Between 1851 and 1870 he also journeyed to the upper Missouri River many times in the interest of the American government. Perhaps his finest hour was in 1868 when, accompanied only by a squaw-man as interpreter and a few friendly chiefs and braves, he entered the camp of Sitting Bull* and persuaded him to accept the subsequent treaty of Fort Rice, “the most complete and wisest thus far concluded with the Indians of this country.” De Smet visited the Sioux for the last time in 1870. He died three years later and was buried at Florissant where he had completed his noviciate 50 years before.


Monday, July 25, 2011


I don't have photos yet of the exhibit, so I stole this one off of my friend Tyrone Tootoosis FaceBook page of the exhibit that he is curating at the Wanuskewin Heritage Park.    As soon as I have the official photos, I will post them here.

I am really moved by the thoughts of honor and respect shown to the horse, and the deep connection the Plains tribes have with "Mistatim"  Both historically but also now.   They are a horse nation.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Quilled Headstall Strips

I was recently hired to reproduce some artifacts collected by the Catholic priest Father Pierre-Jean De Smet for a museum installation.   These bridle strips are the first of these projects.    The originals were collected by De Smet in 1859, although the makers of them are not identified.  They could be early Plateau or Plains manufacture according to the museum catalog.  

When I get these done I shall give more information about Father De Smet.   

The quills I am using are all natural dyed, including indigo for the blue and cochineal for the darker red.  The hide is a heavy smoked brain tanned elk.

So if I get my quilling "Zen" on, I hope to have these finished by next week.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

New works in the pipeline! Glass Horse Quirt.

 It's been a little while since I have had the opportunity to make some new works.   Since I also restore artifacts and historical work, this can be very demanding on my time as well.  And this year I think has been especially so, as I think many people who held off the last few years getting their antique material worked on now know the world isn't collapsing.   So I had quite a bit come in needing attention.  

But.....Finally I am able to start back on some new works.  This will be a glass horse quirt, like the two below I did a few years ago.    I still have a few glass works I have not finished up from a couple of years ago.  I hope to finally get them done as well.

And I also have other works on order.  So photos to follow soon.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I am very honored and excited to have some of my work displayed in a exhibit that will open next month at the Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatchewan, Canada.   The focus of the exhibit is on the Mistatim (horse) and the relationship with the Plains Cree peoples.   The exhibit will run from July 2011 to July 2012.

Here's a link to the Wanuskewin Heritage Park:    

I'll post photos once its up and running.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Plateau Mountain Sheep Hide Dres

 This dress was made using Mt. Sheep hides, just like many of the old Pony Beaded dresses were.   It is a excellent hide for garments, as it is strong but thin.   And now impossible to get.   Mt Sheep today have had their numbers severely impacted with the introduction of lung worm from domestic sheep.   Mt. Sheep hides were the preferred species to make both dresses and war shirts from.  Now it is a rare garment made from them.

This dress was beaded using pony beads in a mid-nineteenth century style.  The drops on this dress are also elk teeth and very valuable trade beads.   It also took a additional 3 antelope hides just to make the thin, thick fringe on the bottom and sides.  I also retained the tails and hair on the ends of the legs for fringe like the original ones.
I originally made this dress for a traveling museum exhibit.  And I kept this one, and wear it from time to time.

My hopes are soon to start making another one.   A girls got to have new clothes :-)


Friday, May 13, 2011

Cheif David Young Cayuse Horse Collar

Here's another one of those items from the historical past I felt very lucky to be able to restore.   When this item came to me, it was not in its original form and had been made into a bandoleer for people to wear I assume.   But the minute I saw it I remembered the photo of Chief David Young taken by Major Moorhouse and was able to confirm this was the same item as in the photo.  I restored the horse collar back as it was intended to be used (the center panel was vertical when I got this).   Too bad though we don't know where the matching mask to this is.  But I love it when images of the past and the actual item in the present can be collaborated.   And it is often that due to the photographic process, what something appears to be in a photograph is not the case when looking at the actual artifact.   Bill Holm wrote a excellent article about this in American Indian Art.  Different types of film register colors differently.   This is a excellent example.   In the photo it appears the collar is a blue background with red trim, when in fact the opposite is true. 


Friday, April 15, 2011

Nez Perce' Cradle Board

 Here is the cradleboard shown in this well known Curtis photo of a Nez Perce' Baby.   It was quite a while ago I had this one in.   But what surprised me was the colors on it.   Often this can be the case, as what one thing looks like in a photo can be totally different in real life.  But either way, you have to admit that is one cute baby (which did not come with the cradleboard :-) )

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When You Get To Hold History In Your Hands

I have been very fortunate to have handled some important historic Native art in my capacity as a restoration specialist (As well as being a artist).  It teaches me more about the art than any other way I think I could imagine.  It helps me greatly in knowing how this work is done which I then use this knowledge to create and make new works.  No amount of looking at photos of artifacts can replace actually getting to feel, smell, handle, and repair the work.  Fixing what the artist did teaches you as if you were to have a paint brush and follow a master painters work brush stroke to brush stroke.

This dress was one of those famous works.  It is shown in this famous Curtis photo of "The Wife of Mnainak",  A Yakima Chief.   I have restored quite a few of these Plateau Mt. Sheep Hide Dresses.  They are one of my favorite items to make as well.
 So in the next few weeks, I will show some of the works I have been fortunate to have worked on that appear in some pretty famous photos.   For me it doesn't get any better than that :-)


Friday, April 8, 2011

Horse Dance Stick

 This "Horse Dance Stick" or memorial stick was a joint project between myself and NW Coast Carver Joe David.  It is carved to represent my Appaloosa "Cappy".  Generally these are made to honor a respected horse, like one the warrior rode into battle and was killed.   Such are the carvings made by the famous Standing Rock Sioux warrior No Two Horns who made the horse sticks in the last photo.  These memorialize a blue roan horse that was shot several times in battle but carried No Two Horns until he could no longer do so.   But I have to add, Cappy is very much alive right now, although missing a little of his mane which he donated to the project.
The feather stick under the chin are a type of war medicine that were used by the Blackfeet and some of the other surrounding tribes.  

While I have not ridden Cappy into war or the situations that these horses have been memorialized for, we have in the past done some different types of horse shows.  And I can tell you they can be just as bad  as if you were at war :-)  


Saturday, March 19, 2011

One more pair of Gauntlet Gloves!

Going thru photos today, I found another pair of gauntlet gloves I made and forgot about, so didn't add them to the last post.   Probably due to the fact, in all honesty, that gauntlet gloves are something I really don't like making much.  Maybe because they are difficult to sew, or that they are difficult to fit.  Hard to make them right.

In fact I can use the work "hate" to make them, unless I am in the right mind to do so.  To prove that point, several years ago I had a proposal from a very important art collector that wanted me to make 24 pairs of gauntlet gloves.  Each one different and of my own art choice.  And I turned it down.  I still don't know if that was a smart move, as I would have had a good year, year and a half of steady work and probably a museum show and book out of it in the end.   But I just could not suffer the fact of making a total of 48 sewn and beaded hands.   But if ones does not like the art one is asked to do, then don't do it.  Life is too short.

And soon, under the suggestion of a friend, I will hopefully have all these Blog posts categorized under each type of item.  Its a bit of a search to look for specific types of items in this Blog as I have quite a few works up.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011


While I am madly working away on some new material, I though I would add a few more pairs of beaded gloves to the Blog.  The first big pair I have had a while (as evidenced by the bead repair with the blue beads that don't quite match).  But in real life they are close.  Photography can alter colors.   

I wear these when I ride in parades.  Inside the stars on the hands is my livestock brand, although upside down in the photo.  But not to the wearer of the gloves.   They are beaded out of small size 14 antique cut faceted beads, on finely tanned smoked braintan hide. 

These last three sets of simple cuff length gloves were done at a friends request.  They were going thru a tough time, and wanted something "Simple but fun" to wear while she was riding cutting horses.   I hope they fit the bill for her.

New work to follow soon.