GENERAL ARTS AND CRAFTS INFORMATION

Alaskan Native Art Kachinas
Basketry Navajo Rugs
     - How to Care for/Hang Your Navajo Rug
Beadwork Pottery
Bracelet - Care & Sizing Sandpaintings
Fetish Carvings  

 

ALASKAN NATIVE ART

A variety of highly refined Native Indian Arts and Crafts express the unique cultural traditions of Native Alaskan peoples. Commonly known as "Eskimo", the Yupik and Inupiat people of Northern Alaska have been subsistence hunters relying on local species for thousands of years. These local animals provide the materials from which are fashioned exceptional works of art. The tusks of the Pacific walrus provide ivory which carvers transform into amazingly realistic images of animals. Walrus, seal, polar bears and arctic whales are favorite subjects, but we also see birds, otters, woolly mammoth, wolf, moose and many others. Hunters waiting at seal breathing holes and whaling from kayaks are also depicted in ivory. Old pieces of whalebone collected from shorelines are also used by carvers, often for larger scale pieces. More recently soapstone has become popular with several carvers as well as with collectors. Other items include hoop masks, dolls, and the highly sought after baleen basketry. Woven from the baleen plates of the toothless species of whales, these baskets are produced by a very small number of artists, and are a truly unique form of artistic expression.

Price ranges on items from Alaska are from about $30 into $1000's, with something to fit everyone's budget. Please contact the shop for its current selection/special requests. For further reading on Alaskan arts and crafts, see our publication section of available books.

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BASKETRY

One of the oldest creative endeavors still practiced today is the art of weaving baskets. Although the utilitarian aspects of basketry for everyday use have been almost entirely supplanted by modern conveniences, the ceremonial use of baskets persists in many communities. The need for ceremonial items and the recognition of basketry as an art form have helped this exquisite form of creative art to survive. American Indian basketry relies on local materials that are gathered by the basket maker and techniques that have remained unchanged from prehistory to the present day. Many southwestern baskets are made with yucca leaves and various grasses, while baskets from other parts of the country are woven from different woods which have been split into very thin strips. At The Indian Craft Shop we carry basketry from several different southwestern groups including the Tohono OíOdham (or Papago), Apache, Navajo, and Hopi. From basket makers in other parts of the country we have Cherokee (both Eastern and Western), Ojibwa, Chippewa, Mohawk, Passamoquaddy, and Seminole work. Trays, jars, plaques, sewing baskets, fruit baskets, miniatures, and burden baskets are among the basketry forms that we regularly have in stock.

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BEADWORK

The first thing that comes to mind for many people when they think of American Indian crafts is beadwork. Although glass beads were not available until they were imported by Europeans as a trade item they quickly became a traditional form of embellishment for a variety of everyday items and ceremonial objects. There are distinctive types of beadwork from different regions of the country, and subtle differences of style from different tribes within each region. Beads can be applied to fabric or hide in different ways, most of which are variations of sewing techniques. A common form is called the lazy stitch, (although there is nothing lazy about doing it!), in which the beads are sewn in even rows with different color combinations used to create geometric designs. Beads can also be contour stitchedÓ in which the rows of beads are sewed in curvilinear patterns with varying numbers of beads used to fill spaces and create curved designs such as flowers. Beads can also be stitched together into tubular strips which are used finish the edges of designs and to cover the handles of rattles or the stems of pipes. Unique to the Northeastern United States is raised beadwork, a technique which creates dimensional designs which rise up from the surface of the fabric.

At The Indian Craft Shop most beaded items are from the Northern and Southern Plains, with work as well as from other areas including the Northeast, Alaska, and the Southwest. Prices range from under $20 to over $1000. Please contact the shop for our current selection or special requests. For further reading on beadwork, see the publications section for available books!

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Quill Work

Prior to the introduction of glass beads as an European trade item, tribes in many parts of the country used porcupine quills to decorate clothing and everyday items. Made soft by soaking, the individual quills are then trimmed and flattened, and sewn or plaited in a variety of ways to create smooth even rows. A variety of colors obtained from dyes allowed a wide range of designs to be produced. As small glass beads became a common item they quickly supplanted the use of quills in most areas. With no preparation required, beads were a much more efficient way to provide decoration. Although greatly diminished, quill work did not vanish completely, and there are many artists today reviving this art form. Mostly from tribes living on the Great Plains, there are many beautifully quilled items available to include moccasins, medicine bags and pipe bags, hair ornaments, key rings, jewelry and many other accessories. One of the most popular is the medicine wheel, a rou d shape with four directional bars inside the circle. It is covered with plaited quills which are dyed in either the traditional directional colors or in a variety of colors. Please contact The Indian Craft Shop for its current selection of quill work. For further reading, see the publications section for available books!

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FETISH CARVINGS

Fetish carvings, which are small stone representations of animals, are one of the most popular and easily collected forms of American Indian art. Fetishes have long been an integral feature of the traditional religious practices of Pueblo groups. Over the last sixty years the creation of fetishes has developed into an art form by many artisans, predominantly at the Zuni Pueblo. The depictions of animals range from very abstract representational forms to highly detailed lifelike sculptural works, ranging in size from miniatures that sit on the tip of a finger to pieces too large to fit in the hand. A wide variety of materials are used including varieties of jasper, marble and serpentine, as well as turquoise, malachite, fluorite, alabaster and pipestone. Carvers also utilize materials other than stone including shell, coral, jet, ironwood, cottonwood, cedar, antler, bone, fossil ivory, and even glass! The array of animals is equally diverse. The traditional forms of the six directions which are: wolf (east), bear (west), mountain lion (north), badger (south), mole (underground), and eagle (sky), are most often represented. In addition to these commonly carved animals, artists are creating just about to include turtles, frogs, fish, horses, elephants, dinosaurs, buffalo, skunks, weasels, and just about everything else imaginable.

At The Indian Craft Shop there is always a wide selection of fetish carvings ranging from traditional subjects and styles to the most innovative of the modern pieces. The price range of fetish carvings is from under $10 to sometimes over $1000 dependent on the material, detail of carving, and the skill level and notability of the artist. Collecting fetish carvings is a rewarding experience as each figure takes on its own personality. If you are interested in particular artists work, or collect certain animals or stones, please contact the shop for our current selection. To learn more about fetishes, be sure to see the publications list for books available.

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KACHINAS

Central to the traditional religion of the Hopi people of the Northern Arizona are Kachinas. A Kachina (Katsinas) is a supernatural being relied upon to provide rain, fertility, health, and well being. While kachinas play a role in many of the Pueblo societies, the Hopi are most noted and prolific today in kachina doll carving. Each year in elaborate ceremonies, men of the Hopi villages dress and mask themselves for ritualized dances to represent and call on the different Kachinas. Kachina dolls are carved from cottonwood root and have long been used to instruct Hopi children in the ways of the traditional religious cycles, and to help them learn to identify the hundreds of different beings. The carvings convey the movement of the dancer, and the specific particulars of the mask, costume, and accessories. In addition to kachinas, Hopi artists also carve figures from Hopi mythology and folklore as well as other Pueblos dancers.

The Indian Craft Shop features a selection of Hopi carvings from both emerging and well-established artists, as well as occasional selections of Zuni carved kachina dolls. Some of the most popular carvings include Eototo and Aholi (Kachina Chief and 1st Lieutenant), Ogres, Shalako, Eagle, Bear, Wolf and Badger, and clowns to include Koshares and Mudheads. Price ranges on kachina dolls vary from the low $100ís to over $1000. Please contact the shop for our current selection/special requests. If you are interested in learning more about kachinas, be sure to see the publications section for books which are available!

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NAVAJO RUGS

From the looms of Navajo weavers come wool rugs that are comparable to the world's finest weavings. Navajo weavings are woven on upright looms that are constructed by the weaver. The transition from producing weavings for personal use to producing items for commerce was largely responsible for the development of the modern Navajo rug, just over one hundred years ago. The advent of reservation trading posts encouraged this transition by creating market outlets for products like rugs that previously had circulated only in trade. Exposure to larger markets had a significant effect on the evolution of the art form. The most apparent example of this was the development of regional styles and patterns. Although they are no longer accurate indicators of a modern rugs geographic origin, the regional names such as Two Grey Hills, Wide Ruins, or Ganado still identify rugs of a particular style. It is important to realize that these are general styles, and not specific patterns or designs. There is no set of Navajo designs, and patterns are devised within the mind of the weaver, so while two rugs may be very similar, there are no two exactly alike.

At The Indian Craft Shop there is always a selection of Navajo rugs representing regional styles, as well as the popular pictorials and sand painting designs. We often have unusual or exceptional examples of a particular type, and can take advantage of our extensive sources to locate hard to find or unique weavings. Prices on Navajo rugs range from about $100 into the $1000ís. Please contact the shop for our current selection and any special requests you may have. If you would like to learn more about the fascinating history of Navajo weaving and the development of their styles, please see our Publications selection of books on the topic!

HOW TO CARE FOR / HANG YOUR NAVAJO RUG   go to online store

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POTTERY

Contemporary American Indian pottery is the legacy of a tradition thousands of years old. To be considered a "traditional" piece of pottery the potter must dig the clay out of the ground and construct the pot entirely by hand without the use of a potter's wheel. Many traditional potters eschew the use of electric kilns for firing their work, instead using an outdoor pit fueled by wood and dung. Designs are either carved or scratched into the surface of a dried piece before it is fired. Designs can also be applied with a "slip", a thin mixture of water and clay. Different clays, ground minerals, or plant materials are used to make slips of different colors. Many Navajo potters coat their pieces with pine pitch, which gives them a lustrous finish. No glaze is ever used in traditional American Indian pottery. Pottery with a shiny finish has been polished by rubbing the surface of the piece with smooth stones. Often a single piece will incorporate several of these techniques.

At The Indian Craft Shop we feature pottery from several Pueblos, including San Ildefanso, Santa Clara, Acoma, Zuni, Jemez, Cochiti, Nambe, Isleta, and others. From outside the Pueblos we carry pottery from Hopi, Navajo, Catawba, and Cherokee artists.

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SANDPAINTINGS

Historically and through today, sand painting ceremonies have been/are conducted by Navajo Medicine men. Despite their use for centuries the images themselves were not reproduced outside of the ceremonies until the early 1900ís when sand painting designs were occasionally being depicted in rugs, and had begun to be catalogued by ethnographers. Within the last fifty years, a technique was developed for making permanent sand paintings as an art form on particle board. By applying the sand onto thin layers of glue and coating the finished piece with a clear coat of acrylic a degree of permanence is attained. This technique has enabled sand paintings to become commercially available, and many Navajo artists excel at this uniquely Navajo form of expression. Traditional designs are reproduced with slight modifications (since the actual complete designs can only be used in the appropriate religious setting) and single elements of these designs are popular subjects for smaller pieces. Nontraditional themes have also become more prevalent, including landscapes, dancers, and still life images.

At The Indian Craft Shop there is a wide array of sand paintings, many framed and matted, as well as wooden boxes with decorative sand painting lids. Prices on sand paintings can range from $5.00 to over $1000. Please contact the shop for descriptions and its current selection. For further reading on sand painting, please see our Publication section of available books.

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