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.