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CHARLIE PRATT - October 2001

The Highlight of the Month program at The Indian Craft Shop focuses on a particular craft area, region or artist family/group. Our aim is to illustrate the diversity of tribal groups and the wide variety of artistic expressions and traditions in the country today.

Charlie Pratt has always been surrounded by art and artists. As a child, he would watch his grandfather, a jack of all trades, make everything from jewelry to houses. Charlie and his brother Harvey, a well known painter, started dancing on the powwow circuit while in elementary school. He met artists like Woody Crumbo, Woody Big Bow and Dick West and admired their work. But, it was when Charlie was in high school and saw some bronze statues that he knew working in bronze was what he wanted to do with his life.

As ingenious and dedicated as Charlie is, he decided that he also wanted to cast his own bronzes, rather than have them cast for him. He went to a foundry, offering to work without pay, casting his own pieces so he could learn the process. After sweating for months, he was ready to open his own foundry. Several years later, he sold the foundry, realizing it took too much time from his art.

Inspired by their work, Alan combined their styles into his own unique one. Like his brother, he enjoys carving figures of people. Like his mother, he likes to carve olla maidens. Today his maidens, ranging in size from three to twelve inches, are prized.

Charlie Pratt is a self-taught artist and has dedicated himself to sculpting with intensity and innovation. He is always pondering new ideas, experimenting with new forms, and trying out new materials. Known for his work in bronze and stone, today he is also working with fiberglass, resins and acrylics. His work ranges from small silver sculptures that can sit on a table or be worn as a pendant, to stone or bronze buffaloes, to six foot tall, brightly colored fiberglass feathers.

Sometimes his pieces are detailed and realistic, and sometimes they are abstract. Perhaps his most famous pieces are his bronze life-size ears of corn, or even stalks or small fields, with kernels made individually from stone, shell and metal. He is also known for prayer feathers made of bronze, wood or fiberglass.

Charlie’s work can be found in collections all over the world. He has won over 350 awards from shows across the country. When asked what award he is the most proud of, his response was, "I’m proud of all of them. Awards are like a bonus that I can buy some more material or pursue what I’m after at the moment. In the beginning, they were necessary." It’s just like Charlie to look at a First Place or Best in Show not as an end in itself, but as a means to venture into new frontiers.

                                                              ©The Indian Craft Shop 2001