Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Good old-fashioned American craftsmanship | Art

Delivery delays are on the horizon for the Christmas season, so “shop locally” might just be the gift mantra for 2021. The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) is bringing their personal Winter Indian Market back in time to select some art and handcrafted goods from award-winning Native American artists. The market will be held at La Fonda in the Plaza on Saturday, November 20 and Sunday, November 21, and features 150 of SWAIA’s judged indigenous artists from the Santa Fe Indian Market in August 2021. The event also includes an online auction.

Near Hopi

Hopi Katsina Carver Randall J. Brokeshoulder says even traditional artists have problems with the supply chain. Getting poplar roots to carve wasn’t easy during the pandemic. He usually trades some of his artwork for the thick threads of wood cut from the banks of the river. But in recent years, many poplar pickers have retired or health restrictions have prevented them from socializing. It was a festival or a famine, and Brokeshoulder sometimes went months without anything. He was able to replenish supplies in October to complete some backordered orders and prepare a range of goods for India’s winter market.

There are several interpretations of katsinas, says Brokeshoulder. “Symbols, deities, animals, people. They’re more or less teachers. ”He explains that most Hopi ceremonies are about rain and the association with year-round farming cycles. “Feel alive again,” he posted on Instagram a few weeks ago with a photo of Works in Progress: four small dolls standing on a wall, in various stages of completion. His katsinas are colorful and often seem flexible, as if they are actually dancing.



Work in progress (2021); Photo by Natasha Ashley Brokeshoulder

“I was there again,” he says. “I have more poplars. I went to Alamosa, Colorado and collected what I needed from a friend. I had some really good pieces so I could get everything back on track. This post was all about catching up and having more inventory in the future. “

Although he’s gathered his own wood before, it’s a lot of work, and Brokeshoulder, 38, is a full-time banker and financial planner in Santa Fe, so he prefers to trade in for this material. “You have to have a canoe, a couple of hacksaws. There’s a lot in there. You need to know the tree lines. You have to know what you are looking for. “

To understand how Katsina carvers look at a river bank, Brokeshoulder says one should hike next to a river with poplar trees and look for large piles of sticks that have gathered on the sides. This suggests an underlying root system. Carvers harvest the roots in large pieces, which then have to dry for several months before they can be carved. “If you can get them in the beginning of summer, they are good in the fall. Some guys just throw them on the roof and let them sit in the sun all the time. “

Brokeshoulder begins with roots that are four to five feet long and carves dolls that range from a few inches to about two feet in height. He paints them with natural mineral pigments, which he collects by hand in “dry, higher-lying areas”. He keeps his specific excavation sites to himself. “In Utah, you can find greens mixed with clay, almost like sand. Yellow is a sandstone. You can get this Cochiti red on the side of the road. “

Pulling quote

“This work of art brought me closer to Hopi, even though I don’t live there. I can take my artwork anywhere and always feel part of what’s going on out there. ”- Randall J. Brokeshoulder

His katsinas are carved entirely by hand, using pocket knives, horseshoe files, and precision cutting tools. They are adorned with hand-tied feathers from ducks, macaws, capercaillie and partridges.

“I use a number of natural techniques, including hand-spun cotton. Everything is completely natural, ”he says.

Brokeshoulder’s family comes from the village of Hotevilla, on the third mesa of the Hopi reservation (in Arizona). He grew up in a military family and learned the basics of carving from his father, who always made time for his art. Brokeshoulder says he started making katsinas in earnest when he was 20 and has now participated in 18 SWAIA Indian Markets.

“This work of art brought me close to Hopi, even though I don’t live there,” he says. “I can take my artwork with me wherever I go and I always feel part of what is happening out there. There are only a certain number of artists who are gifted at making katsinas. Sharing my knowledge helps everyone understand what Hopi is, part of our culture. “

Made in America



Good old fashioned American craftsmanship: Winter Indian Market

Osceola and Genevieve red shirt from Two Guns Leather Company

Osceola and Genevieve Red Shirt own and operate Two Guns Leather Company (twogunsleather.com), an online company based in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. They make belts, wallets, holsters, and a variety of purses and bags that have become their best-selling items. Most of the products feature original designs that have been carved into the leather and then painted, including flowers, animals, dragonflies, and what they call their “fighter,” a woman wearing a ribbon skirt with her hands firmly planted on her hips. Two Guns Leather Company prefers light colors – red, turquoise, yellow, and green – that are reminiscent of those used in Ledger art.

The couple are originally from North Dakota and founded their company in 2017 when Genevieve (Sicangu Sioux, Taino), 43, Osceola (Ogalala Sioux), 45, convinced that the leather carving he had done most of his life was more than simple was craftsmanship. “I imagine artists as painters and potters who do work to be exhibited,” he says. “You wear a belt so I never considered it an art. My wife said I was an artist and I had to start publishing my things as works of art. “

In 2021, Red Shirt took part in the SWAIA Indian Market in the Diverse Arts category for the first time. “Leatherwork is a little bit of everything. You must be able to paint and carve. We don’t have postage stamps that do the designs. It’s all hand carved, ”he says. “You first draw the design on the leather and then carve it with a so-called swivel knife. And then you use other types of tools to give it a raised look and then paint that with a special acrylic paint for leather. You build this up in layers to get coverage, which takes about three or four layers. It’s nice and flexible, not the same kind of paint you would use on canvas. “



Good old fashioned American craftsmanship: Winter Indian Market

Two Guns Leather Company, Dakota Floral Embellished Tote (2021), leather

Red Shirt has been working leather for 30 years and taught his wife the art form about five years ago. Genevieve has dabbled in designing fighters and floral patterns, while his favorite pastime is holsters, due to his background in federal law enforcement. He retired from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2020, which he thought was a great move for him. He is seeing less stress and other health benefits, and now he can focus on his family and art and pursue a long career of competitive pow wow dancing. In 2021 he finished 3rd in the 45th annual Eastern Band Cherokee Pow Wow.

He learned how to work with leather from his uncle, who made her family’s powwow outfits when Red Shirt was young. “We didn’t always have the money to make beadwork for our outfits. My uncle made some of our outfits out of leather and said from a distance that it looked like beadwork. And it does. That’s what I grew up with, so that mindset continued. In everything I do, I like the bright colors. I like it when it stands out. “



Good old fashioned American craftsmanship: Winter Indian Market

Two Guns Leather Company, Native Urban Chic Set (2021), leather

They source most of their leather from commercial tanneries, although Red Shirt is learning to tan buffalo hides, which he plans to use to make vests and other items of clothing. He’s also got some alligator leather that he’ll use to create something special for the Winter Indian Market, though he’s not sure yet what it will be. Something high-end and very original, he says.

“Everything we make is a limited edition. I really appreciate that people are willing to spend their hard earned money on something I do, so I guarantee the leather work as well as the paintings that are there. With all of the goods waiting on cargo ships to be delivered, you don’t have to worry when you come to the Winter Indian Market which I heard is geared towards Christmas shopping. If it’s made in America, you don’t have to wait. “

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