Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Nature Crafts - Lessons Learned- and a few laughs along the Way

I have a love of indigenous craft... especially for the things created by the Ojibway/Chippewa Indians of the area here. I've always been fond of Native American ideology and spirit, perhaps stemming from my own diluted heritage. I'm not into geneology but the story is told that my great, great, great grandmother married an Indian man... she stayed in the cabin, he lived outside, never setting foot indoors. ( How perfect is that? )

Anyway, I've always thought I'd love to try to do some native bead, quill or birch work....and wow, did I ever score for materials this summer. A couple months back I saw what I thought was a big cat in the driveway. Close inspection proved to be the tresspass of a porcupine. It's not that I'm anti-varmint.. but there's thousands of acres for them to roam.... just not our acres. It lumbered itself up a 40' pine and took residence sure to come down to cause probable grief..

My little pups wouldn't stand a chance if this happened to them. Out comes Daniel "Boone" to the rescue. Now, D's not the best shot, nor is a porky quick to die. In death they cling to a tree branch as if glued. 8 shots ( including 1 reload) and a slow period of rigor to release the claws and the thump of his corpse falling to the ground was a celebration. At one point the wait was so long that I imagined his rotting carcus being stuck 40' above ground for the duration of the summer.. Phew !!!

After positive death was determined, I brought out the pliers and proceeded to pulling a sack full of quills from his hide. His body dumped up the road in a ditch, dogs out of emminent danger, I was now thinking... wow, what can I make with these ??? Well, first I had to wash them... they're hollow on the inside and there was a minute amount of "scalp" attached...( BTW, I am not a woos or of fragile stomach) and I soaked them all in bleach. I drained them of solution and transferred to paper towel to drain... The odor of quills is indescribable.. a piney, woody, wild, musky stench !!! The crafting appeal was fast waning and as I tranferred them yet again to the storage bag, I was poked so many times during the process that I'd thought I developed Turets Syndrome. Visions of quill baskets and intricate designs flew right the heck out the window!

Now my birch bark experience was more pleasant ( but not by much).... D brought home a load of firewood that included some fine specimens. I played with the bark, peeling it down, separating it's paper like layers as if I was picking at a scab and as such, highly addictive. What pretty papers and pliable surfaces I gleaned from it 5 hours later.... Pretty until I took the needle and thread to it. The bark tore through as tho' knifed. Guess I peeled it too thin to use... alas what pretty note paper, not all lost. I played with it long enough to know that even time and skill enhancement would not cure the lack of creative satisfaction I felt. I was not born to make anything resembling the beautiful basket of quill and birch below nor the gorgeous beaded pouch.

The point is... obviously, I am not Native American nor am I Mrs Boone and after my experiences , I can take a few more things off my list and out of my closet of craft exploration. When will I learn that I don't have to try crafts that I admire?

(I had originally wrote this a month or so back and am bringing it out of edit mode because of another porky encounter this morning.... subtitled Porky on the Porch. At least I was smart enough to not go running for the pliers this time.)

All photos taken from Yahoo image files

PS. Tophat ? When you come up here I have a bag full of quills and birch bark for you to take home and try your hand at.


Paddy's Daughter said...

Ouch! Those poor dogs, how painful must that be? Well done for trying to make use of your porky quills, I can imagine the smells and how difficult it would be - I don't think I would have been game to try! Sue McB

Marie Alton said...

Hi Jane...I had to chucke a few times reading your tale. I too love native art. Many moons ago we spent several weeks a year camping on Manitoulin Island...which is very richly native...and I decided I had to learn to make Dream Catchers...I figured it all out and made quite a few of them...sold a bunch! I remember seeing those quill boxes...they were awesome! I did make a birch bark feather once...for a tiny dream catcher made out of a green twig.

Wise to pass on the quills!

Life Scraps and Patches said...

Great story, Indian maiden. Maybe that's why you were drawn out of the city.