It has been very long time since I featured images of some of my original quillwork designs on my web page. Since my work took me away from the realm of the professional artist years ago and into the field of art conservation and preservation, I let the quillwork gallery fall by the wayside. But a number of recent inquiries about porcupine quillwork inspired me to put it back up again.
And what proper place does a gallery of original art have on a conservator’s web page, one might ask? Simply put, no one can truly understand the treatment and preservation of any kind of art object without a solid understanding of the art form itself; its history, techniques and materials. And what better way to learn about a particular art than by actually doing it?
I had completely forgotten about some of the things that I had made. This pair of moccasins was always a favorite. The design was based on an original pair I saw at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian when I was working there. I thought the two-toned effect of the different colored leathers was quite remarkable. The leather used here is brain-tanned, smoked deer hide. The vamp, cuffs, and tongues are undyed, and the rich dark brown color of the lower section comes from soaking the tanned leather in a solution of walnut hulls and iron filings.
The quill dyes are indigo blue and cochineal red. Both of these natural dyes were in common use in historic times, and it is easy to see why: they were readily available through the European trade, they were easy to work with, and gave reliable, permanent color. Red, white and blue quillwork (sometimes with a pale yellow,) is characteristic of Great Lakes, Metis and Upper Missouri artwork from the late 1700′s through the introduction of aniline dyes in the mid to late 1800′s.
To see more images of these moccasins and other original quillwork, visit the quillwork gallery on the Ancient Artways Studio home page.