Filed under: catalyst
As always, thank you to all of our visitors and all the encouraging comments you left for us. For those of you who did, thank you for playing along with us.
Ok! Here’s catalyst number one hundred and twenty-nine:
What is a family keepsake you have or hope to have?
We’re thrilled to have Melissa Manley as this week’s Guest Artist.
Here’s a quickie self-bio for Melissa:
Melissa Manley has worked in whatever medium was available since childhood. She has a BA in Studio Art from UNC Wilmington and recieved her Masters of Fine Arts in Metal Design at East Carolina University in 2006. While at ECU, Melissa studied under nationally recognized enamellist Linda Darty as well as Robert Ebendorf, one of the godfathers of found object jewelry in the United States. Melissa specializes in jewelry and small vessels in silver, copper and enamel and sometimes incorporating natural objects gleaned from her kayak adventures in the waters around her coastal home. Melissa has taught workshops in collage, watercolor, book altering and jewelry classes at art retreats for the past nine years. She currently teaches metalsmithing at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, NC. Her work has appeared in Somerset Studio magazine, Crafting Personal Shrines by Carol Owen, The Fine Art of Enameling by Linda Darty, Making Connections by Susan Lenart Kazmer, Collage Lab by Bee Shay and 500 Enameled Objects by Lark Books. And Melissa is the featured artist in the year’s Winter edition of Belle Armoire Jewelry. Look for her book “Jewelry Lab: 52 Experiments, Investigations and Explorations in Metal” by Quarry Press coming in 2011.
Here is Melissa’s art with this week’s catalyst. You can click on it to see a larger version and a lot more detail.
My family has passed to me the love of artifact. We are a tribe of collectors, lovers of history, and treasure. I also grew up with rich story telling around the table and a deep respect for ancestry which heirlooms reinforced. My mother displays our collections all over the house from her own collections to the natural treasures my brothers and I gleaned in our rampaging through woods and along creek banks. We are of Miami descent. Francis La Fontaine, or Topeah the last principle chief of the Myaamia (Miami) People of the Crane, was one of my grandfathers. There is a peace pipe that was passed to my father and when I saw this catalyst, I thought instantly that the pipe would be my inspiration for a piece of art or jewelry. I asked my father about it and he brought it out. I learned that it is surrounded by mystery and has nothing to do with my Miami heritage at all! The pipe is a “calumet” or red stone peace pipe. It is two long carved pieces held together by a short hollow piece of turkey bone. The legend is that my father had an uncle who was a traveling salesman. On a trip out west he bought the pipe in 1936 for the princely sum of $100 to add to his collection of pipes. The seller told him that the pipe was found in a burned Spanish fort on the Red River, east of Wichita Falls, Texas in the 1850’s. The pipe is indeed discolored all down one side, as if it had been buried during a fire, with one side protected. I love history, I love the old west and I do love a mystery. Here was all three!
Calumets or peace pipes were often carved of a dull red, mottled stone named by the white men, catlinite after George Catlin an artist and writer who lived among the Native Americans. Pipestone is found mainly in Minnesota, the Dakotas, and in Canada. It is easily carved and is the rich red color of the Coteau des Prairies, west of the Big Stone Lake in South Dakota. Traditionally, the pipestone quarries were neutral ground among warring peoples as multiple nations often journeyed to this quarry to obtain the sacred pipestone. Calumet were communally smoked in formal situations to give sacred depth to the encounter, such as an important trade event or when entering into a covenant or treaty. When the ceremonial pipes were first encountered by European settlers, who traded among the eastern tribes, they gave them the name “calumet”. The word’s origins are in the French “chalumet” which traces back to the Latin “calamus”, and the Greek “kalamos,” both of which mean “reed” or “pen.”
The legend of our pipe refers to a Spanish fort on the Red River. When doing a piece of artwork with meaning, I love researching and reading first. In a search of “Spanish fort” on the Red River, I found Spanish Fort, TX now mostly a ghost town situated on the Red River near Wichita Falls, Texas! Eureka! In the 18th century the Taovaya were the indigenous peoples living there. In 1759, Spanish troops under Diego Ortiz Parilla tried to claim the territory after a Taovaya and Comanche raid on the San Saba mission. Expecting this retaliation, the Taovaya had built a large fort with a moat. The Taovaya also managed to capture a Spanish cannon and successfully repelled the Spanish. But fate will have its way and due to the contact with the Spanish, the Taovaya contracted small pox. Their population decimated, their remaining people left and merged with the Wichita tribe to the north, in Oklahoma. In the 1830s, American settlers found the remains of the fort in the fertile Red River valley. Since they thought it belonged to the Spanish, possibly because of the cannon, they named the “new” town Spanish Fort. The Chisholm Trail eventually cut its way to Spanish Fort, which then had a population of about 1,000. The crossing there at the river signaled the end of “civilized” territory and the beginning of untamed Indian lands. The town became the last stop on the trail for wine, women and song. Once the railroad came through it made the delights of Spanish Fort obsolete and the town dried up. So where did this pipe turn up? How did my uncle buy it? Spanish Fort was said to have rebounded in the 20’s with the discovery of oil. Whatever its story the pipe remains under glass, in a box at my parent’s house. Only to be taken out at special occasions gazed at, discussed and then put away.
I love the mottled surface of the stone, its patina, the tiny scratches of wear, its rich color. So fitting to me that it was found on the Red River. One could imagine the dark places this pipe was shared. I might envision its presentation, the silence as the skins that wrap it are unwound, the preparation of the tobacco. The smoke itself encircling the heads of the participants, weighing even the very air with the importance of the scene. When I hold it, it is heavy. How must its owner have felt its weight? Did he carry it in a bag on his side as his people followed a herd, or retreated from the edge of winter and its snow. Did he walk? Did its weight make a rhythm on his thigh in time with his step, reminding him of his role as its keeper? Or was it lashed to a travois with other sacred belongings? Did this travois leave a grooved trail through red dust, mud, or snow? Who gave it to him and how was it presented to him? Was it at the death of its prior keeper? What stories were told, by what fire about its origins? And how did he cease to be its keeper? How was it found in a burned fort, left behind, lost? Or even yet, who carved it? Was the maker young and talented, or old and seasoned? Was it carved as a gift? And was it carved by firelight, or by sunlight? How was the long tube through its middle carved? With two leather straps and a flint drill? The straps being worked back and forth, how many hours, days, would it have taken to drill such a stone? And what did the maker feel when the tip of the point broke through the last remaining bit of stone to reveal the inner soul of this pipe, its hollow spine? As a maker of things, I marvel at this sacred object and its manufacture. All created by hands alone, passed by hands to each keeper, polished by the oils of our skin. Do we leave something of ourselves on an object, some residue that we as simple, crude humans are blind to? Does some part of us see and know this past? Some deep part of me nods in the knowing of this carving, this making, then the smoking and using of it, and then passing it on as it lives past wars, peace treaties and burning of forts, past births, hunts and finally graves. How can one hold a weighty thing like this, with the sunlight filtering through the glass windows, and not dream of campfires and faintly hear the howl of wolves?
Here is an excerpt from the first section of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha”:
“From the river came the warriors,
Clean and washed from all their war-paint;
On the banks their clubs they buried,
Buried all their warlike weapons.
Gitche Manito, the mighty,
The Great Spirit, the creator,
Smiled upon his helpless children!
And in silence all the warriors
Broke the red stone of the quarry,
Smoothed and formed it into Peace-Pipes,
Broke the long reeds by the river,
Decked them with their brightest feathers,
And departed each one homeward,
While the Master of Life, ascending,
Through the opening of cloud-curtains,
Through the doorways of the heaven,
Vanished from before their faces,
In the smoke that rolled around him,
The Pukwana of the Peace-Pipe!”
About the necklace:
After toying with the thought of doing a mixed media piece, I decided I really wanted to make a necklace. The pipe’s segments were calling out to become beads. I would love to have purchased some pipestone and carved it myself, but once I made my decision it was too late for that. So I opted to make my beads out of polymer clay. I spent an afternoon working the clay and mixing in colors in an attempt to suggest the mottled colors of the stone. I searched the web for Native American music to play as I worked to get me in the mood. Themed music always helps! I chose to join the pieces with leather rather than chain. It seemed more appropriate and I love working with leather these days.
As I designed the necklace I felt like the beads themselves needed a transition from the flat end to the leather strip. I decided they needed “endcaps” and made them out of silver sheet. I also liked the visual reference to Spanish silver and tying in the visual vocabulary of the old west. I first centerpunched a divot and drilled a hole in the sheet. I then used a circle template and scribed (scratched) a faint line around where the bead would get punched out, so that I could see where my design should go. I then stamped a radial design around my drilled hole and punched the circle out using a disc cutter for metal. I annealed the discs with heat so they’d be softer and domed the discs in a dapping block. You can find these dapping sets at Harbor Freight tools for about $30. Disc cutters unfortunately are more expensive around $100. The cheap ones just don’t work and are a waste. I know from having learned the hard way!
Here are some interpretations of the catalyst from members of our team.
There are not many “things” waiting to be passed down in my family. The things I might wish I had for sentimental reasons are things that were given away long ago. A family member recently, however, gave my mother a tea set that had been my grandmother’s. This drawing combines that tea set and the bloom of yellow roses, a symbol that will always be something my mother and I associate with my grandmother.
The most valuable keepsakes I know are old photos of my family, which I keep collecting, scanning and then I incorporate into scrapbook pages. I love looking into young faces of my grandparents, aunts and uncles, it is magical to see my parents as small children, dressed up for family celebrations or gathered somewhere near the house, posing for a “special photo”. I’ve always wanted to have my own album with those family photos… and this project is a kind of realistion of this idea. Not so long ago I started doing small layouts on brown paper bags, including my favorite old photos. Now I made a cover and binded it all toghether, hoping for more pages to come. This album is my treasure, memories from the past which I can take in my hand. Priceless.
This photo of this special Ballerina was passed down to me from my loving Nan, this is a very special keepsake as it is not about the money value, more about who it has come from and how much it means to me. My Nan was the most wonderful lady that I loved being around and was always so kind and loving towards me growing up, I remember going to her home and I always enjoy being there.
I remember looking and loving this delicate Ballerina and thinking how beautiful she was, and maybe one day I could be like her. Well that did not eventuate, as we grow older things in our lives change, but to receive this from my Nan just before she passed away, will always be a special and wonderful Keepsake, and one I will treasure always, my Nan was a very special lady and I will always have her in my thoughts.
One of my fondest memories of my Grandma Betty is when she took me to her ceramics class at her condo. I don’t know what happened to the owl I painted, but I do remember Grandma painting a ceramic rabbi. I was so amazed by the gold paint she used and the face of the rabbi, deeply focused on his prayer book. When my Grandfather passed, I was given the ceramic rabbi. He has maintained a prominent spot in my home ever since. This drawing is of that statue. I used my iPad to draw, using the “harmonious” app.
I couldn’t think of a physical thing that I really wanted and that stood head-and-shoulders above anything else. But I am very clear on an emotional gift from my family that I hope I carry with me every day
and pass on to my future children: be unique. In a way, I do carry it with me every day because my middle name (Fei-Fan) means unique in Chinese. Being unique is about being authentic and true to yourself and it isn’t always easy. This painting is a good reminder to me to walk to the beat of my own drummer.
I am not one of those people who collects things to leave to my kids. I have the scrap albums which they may or may not want one day. The only thing I hope they will cherish and want to keep are the gratitude journals we’re keeping. I already cherish them deeply. Even keeping the practice of gratitude will be enough for me. I am so thankful we have these to look back upon.
Family keepsake? I don´t know… the farm was sold, jewelry stolen… but there´s something I want to keep: the artistic heritage I’ve got from my maternal grandmother, my aunt Ligia and my mother. Ever since I was little I saw them making art crafts, painting canvas and testing every new technique. And the message they transmitted me was that everything they expressed on their artistic works had the power of setting them free and bringing magic to their lives! I want my daughter to have these amazing colors in her life too!
For this catalyst, I created a scrapbook layout which tittle was created with some ripped canvas peaces. I painted each one and them took photos of colored pencils and watercolors in the palette chosen to illustrate the happy colors I want my family to keep in their lives.
My piece this month renders a family heirloom and keepsake that has come home to me just weeks ago. This is the essence of my mom’s chair, a chair that I knew well growing up. It is where she read the morning paper, sipped her coffee, knitted, quilted, and crocheted, wrote letters, paid the bills, watched television and sometimes dozed. There were ‘antimacasars’ on the back and arms. It was always there..moved from house to home, from here and there, to rest home, passed on, loaned and stored, and as things go sometimes, returned to me by a chain of events. The chair now sits in the corner of my studio, bathed by the light from windows behind, and the warmth of memories. Except for a bit of fading on the deep maroon upholstery, it belies its age…I photographed the chair for a pattern, painted the homespun fabric, cut out the parts, and reassembled them with a bit of space in between to show the settling of time.
The family keepsake that I hope to have some day is my mom and dad’s collection of photo albums. Since I was a child they have taken photos and documented our lives in these albums. For every event in my children’s lives they have been there taking pictures and documenting it all. I can’t think of anything else more I would love to have than those albums and to pass them onto my children. Photography is a big part of my life and that of my family and I want to pass that on. I created this pillow using a photo I took of a vintage camera. I printed it on fabric and machined stitched it to upholstery fabric. I used some vintage lace and button and more of the upholstery fabric to make this little pillow.
I think it’s nesting! Love to be together with my family…a warm nest…. I made a nest form iron wire and pearl beads.
Now it’s your turn: show us your therapeutic art around “What is a family keepsake you have or hope to have?” I urge you to give it a try. It can be any form of art as long as it speaks to you.
Leave us comments with your work so we can share in your creative therapy, too. If you don’t have a community or blog where you upload photos, you can upload them on our flickr group.
Remember, this is not a competition. If your art makes you feel even a bit better at the end, you’ve won.
Until next month, enjoy each and every moment.
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