Native American Craft

il_570xN.291684925Native American crafts are highly prized around the world. They are unique in conception and rich in lore, going back traditionally for more than a few generations. Each tribe, Hopi to Navajo, has its particular gifts and objects of adornment. Some weave rugs, others make jewelry. More than one makes packs and bags. It is part of a long-standing culture that is utilitarian as well as decorative. It has its long-standing place in the American experience.

People seek out these Native American arts and crafts when visiting places like northern Arizona or New Mexico. They learn about the tribes and visit their private reservations, hoping that available wares will be on display. They are seldom disappointed. While you can buy these crafts in Phoenix or Flagstaff in specialty stores, there is nothing like meeting the artisans in person. Kudos are extended all around as wonderful items are offered. It is a special experience known to a few that merits some elucidation.

Some artists are known and others belong strictly to the privacy of the tribe. When they are coveted by collectors, prices can soar. It pays to discover someone on their way up the ladder of fame. However, many people like signed works of art by prominent artisans whether it be a bracelet or a refined earthen bowl. Skill is high in many cases, thus accounting for respect and awe.

Each tribe has a distinctive look to their products. Certain patterns are discernable in the rugs and specific gems are used in jewelry, such as onyx or turquoise. There are commonalities so it can take a practiced eye. Rugs are particularly priceless, especially if they are quite old. The same goes for old pawn jewelry or beaded garb.

Backpacks are not a typical item, but you can request something custom to be made if you like – perhaps with a bit of fringe. These make good gifts or you can use them yourself. Variations on a theme will give you something that can be filled with your precious treasures. Bags are made of skins and adorned with beautiful and distinctive beadwork in rich, vibrant colors. It is akin to the hand-made necklaces composed of tiny heishi beads. They are unique to reservations and can be alternated with animal emblems.

In addition to fine beadwork, you will also find embroidery of various kinds. You have many options to match your taste and style. Each pattern reveals the hand of its maker and expresses a spiritual nature. Native American wares seem to be imbued with an aura that defines them in a distinctive way. We are beyond crafts as we enter the realm of art.

A work of art can be practical and utilitarian like a bag. It becomes classified as art when it partakes of the personal spirit of its maker. The gift is in the ability to make something unique that still expresses the ethos of the tribe. Art can be made for profit: there is nothing wrong with that; but it is also made for personal enjoyment as the output of a hand and mind. We sense this difference when we view such objects.

Native American crafts will add interest and appeal to any décor in your home, or elsewhere in your life. Your handcrafted bag is sure to be seen as a cool backpack by your friends and family. Being able to say you bought it from a Native American, rather than just saying that you bought it on Etsy, adds a lot of value and authenticity to the item. Vases and bowls can stand side by side with the works of other cultures. It is known as an eclectic style. Or they can dominate a room with their indigenous flair. You can add to your collection over time, making a return visit to your resource a pleasure to look forward to. You can wear the jewelry and bags and walk on the rugs: aging does this work a service. If you are lucky enough to meet the artist, you can hear their story and learn their tale.

Many craft items are becoming rare and it pays to avail yourself if you can. The use of varied beads, feathers, silver, gold, gemstones, and hides may not always be around. We hope that fabrication of objects of beauty will not become a lost art. It hopefully will be passed on from one generation to the next. As tribe members leave the reservation, they will also take their skills out into the world.

So take care of that bowl, necklace, statue, bag or pouch, and treasure it. It is your entrée into a Native American experience that will last you a lifetime. Those beads and shells will sing their song and warm your heart with a remembrance of your original time of purchase and the joy that it brought.

Posted in Art