Monday, December 10, 2012

Gina

My sister-in-law is someone special. She is the director of a large animal humane society and works tirelessly to control pet population through her support of,  and participation in spay and neuter clinics.  She has also recently been involved in a heart-rending Malamute breeder abuse case with the Humane Society of the United States.  This spring, when my mom was dying, she provided wonderful support to my brother and my sister.  I wanted to thank her for her loving kindness to my mother and my family, and decided to bead a piece in her honor as a gift.

Gina has Native American ancestry.  Her father was a member of the Blackfoot tribe, whose territory is in northern Montana and Canada, around the Glacier Park area.  I know she admired some of the things she had seen when looking at the Battle of the Beadsmith entires, particularly Sue Horine's piece, so although bead embroidery is not my usual technique, I decided to try to represent Gina's heritage in my work.

I imagined buying a beautiful animal cabochon from Laura Mears, but I wanted to get the right creature, so I asked Gina if she had a special "spirit animal" or if there was something she specifically wanted me to include in the piece.  She responded "feathers, and pictogram horses."  I was a lttle stymied.  A pictogram horse?  I googled "pictogram horse" and found images the reminded me of Lascaux Cave drawings, primitive and stylized.  I found a couple cabochons, both agate, as agate is native to Montana, and started a sketch with several pictogram ponies running around the edge of the cab.  But I just could not leave the ponies alone.  I kept tweaking them.

Gina's mother was an art dealer, and had a huge gallery full of Native American art.  Much of the imagery was romantic in my eyes, and after I worked my sketch for a few hours, the pictorgram horses were gone (REALLY, they WERE there to begin with!!!) replaced by a romantically stylized horse, like what I remembered from Gina's mom's gallery, with a few feathers.


 I was absolutely confident that this was NOT what Gina had in mind.  I was also reasonably sure that I was not a person who was going to be able to bead a pictogram horse, given where my sketch had gone.  Plus I wanted the overall shape of the piece to be significant, as well as the components, in the same ways that Sue Horine's work (which I admire) often does, like for example, her Cleopatra (4th row, fourth from the left) piece.

 I also wanted the piece to be biographical, or at least, a sort of character sketch.  But not photoreal or literal.  Symbolic and gestural, like the pictogram ponies.  SO, new plan.

I hunted for horse fetish beads, and found some I thought had a pictogram quality, as well as looking like Pintos, which seemed right to me.  I just didn't think I had drawing pictogram horses in my soul, and wanted to provide the requested animal in a way that hopefully could be meaningful to both me and Gina.  I chose a cabochon to represent Gina's heart and spirit, aiming for warm, complex, and rich, a "keeping-the-home-fires-burning" image, with a stable, grounded shape.  Then I arranged stacked components like a totem, hoping to create shapes that might represent a dancer's fringed skirt and rising sun,


...a warm red parka with horses on its sleeves, and a thick maybe fur-covered hood.
I wanted the woman's arms to be flung open wide, embracing the sky,

and I also liked that the overall shape had a thunderbird quality.

I found beads to use in my fringe that looked like bone and feathers, so hopefully had included all requested components.

I thought maybe the arms should be fringed, and asked Gina how she felt about that.  The piece is already large and the additional fringe would have made it very big and certainly "ceremonial." I imagined that the piece without more fringe MIGHT get more wear, and explained that.  But I liked the fringe idea too, made a couple samples, and turned the final decision over to Gina.  She decided against the fringe.


About this time noticed a facebook post from my niece about her cousin Jackie Larson Bread, a traditional Blackfoot Bead Artist. who had just had one of her beaded pieces purchased by the Smithsonian Institution.  So THAT was what Gina meant with her reference to pictogram horses.  Yikes.  She has a relative who actually does museum quality Native American beadwork.  I'm glad I didn't know this to begin with, as I would likely never have attempted what I did, but it's done, and I hope Gina will enjoy it!

I learned just how challenging symmetry, perfect shapes, and finishing techniques are in the process of embroidering this piece and I salute all Bead Embroiderers for their precision and beauty, and my beady buddy friends who answered endless questions about this work as I finished it.

Thank you Gina.  I love you.  It will be on it's way tomorrow!

26 comments:

  1. You picked a REALLY hard piece to embroider, and did your usual exquisite work with it!! Congratulations on a stunning piece, Marsha! I'm sure Gina will adore it, and what an incredible gift you've given her!!!

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    1. Thank you Nancy for your finishing help. I got by with more than a little help from my friends!

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  2. It is beautiful and you provided the piece with spirit as well.

    When I was learning to bead the only place to buy beads, outside of fabric stores, were trading posts. Back then my work was much appreciated and I of course oh'd and ah'd over what beadwork they had to show. I am guessing that remains true today.

    For beautiful horse fetishes you should check out Luann Udell: http://luannudell.wordpress.com/ she is one of my very favorite artists.

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    1. You are so right! Luann's horse are glorious! Thanks. You never know which friend to ask for what bit of obscure perfection!

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  3. Wow that is just a stunning piece. The colors and the design is just delightful to the eye.

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  4. Marsha, wow!!! Beautiful piece. I'm sure Gina will love it.

    She sounds like a wonderful person, by the way -- I have a soft spot for anyone who helps animals. :)

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    1. I agree. It's how we treat those below our abilites that tells about who we are, not to dimish the ableness of animals. My cat often seemed very smart to me! She got to sleep, eat, be groomed, played with and for no particular recompense. Maybe she was the smarter of us!!! Anyway, choosing to spend your life helping animals who are lost, sick, homeless, abused and without hope is just something special, that really speaks to character.

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  5. It is a truly magnificent work ... I have no words to express what I feel!!
    Congratulations!!!
    Lyra

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  6. Your work is absolutely amazing but I love this particularly, it's really different and seems to suit perfectly to its recipient!!!

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    1. I love designing for others. Their ideas are like puzzles to be solved, and add a level of interest to the work. Thank you!

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  7. I love your story behind this piece, this piece is amazing and has that "spiritual" feeling. Well done, superb work.

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  8. Beautiful story, gorgeous piece, great colors! Love it!

    Ileana

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  9. Beautiful piece. Gina pointed me in your direction a couple of years ago and I have followed your work since. I'm sure she will love this beautiful gift.

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    1. Thank you so much Robin! I saw your share on fB and appreciated your kind words there as well!

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  10. Beautiful job, Marsha! It is such a different style for yu, but you certainly pulled it off! I swear you are the master of fringes!! Beautiful!!!

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    1. Thanks Betty! I do love me some fringe... :)

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  11. You did it! It came together like a dream, and it says all the things that you were aiming at, and boy, it's fantastic! Not only did you conquer bead embroidery with this piece, but you have succeeded in making something really really different. I feel like with bead embroidery so many things can look similar, but this stands out because of the stunning use of some strong colors that are not normally associated with native beadwork, and it works so well with the unique shape of this piece. And the ponies are perfect. Gina is one lucky lady. This is the best present pretty much ever!

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    1. Kinga, thank you so much for your constant guidance. When I am out of my skill area I really have to rely on input from those of you who embroider every day, and your input, and sometimes, just listening to me work stuff out, is always appreciated!

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