Back in 2018, I travelled with my family to a nishnaabemowin language camp on the Grand Traverse Odawa & Ojibway community located near Peshawbetown, Michigan. As we travelled across the border from Sault Ste Marie, Ontario into Michigan on the International Bridge, it was quite awesome to travel over two great lakes, Superior and Michigan. Seeing this greatness helped me to have a deeper appreciation of the strength, skill, ingenuity, and creativity that my anishnaabeg ancestors needed to survive. The natural world inspired them to create such amazing things. Birch trees are integral to survival from canoes, baskets, and you can make such pretty things with bark and some porcupine quills. Who would have thought of using such things to make art?!
At the anishnaabemowin language camp, I learned how to do some quillwork from masters Mina and Theodore Toulouse from Sagamok, Ontario. The workshop was 2 hours long and I made this small piece, a tipi, in the photo above made from porcupine quills, birch bark, and sweetgrass. I loved learning this new techniques and especially the fresh smell of sweetgrass.
Below, I’m still developing this technique. Made with Delica beads, quills, bark, and sweetgrass.
Another piece I created – an abstract quillwork with Delica beads, quills, and bark.
This technique is still pretty new to me so I keep working away at it. I love how the quills bend and how each quill is unique. One thing you have to do is thoroughly clean the quills before working with them. I got some quills from a friend who got them from a friend who picked up a dead porcupine of the road and the quills weren’t cleaned very well. I was excited to get these quills so opened up the container and the air inside was filled with the dirt and mites from the porcupine. Yikes! My allergies flared up very quickly and I had a hard time breathing. I learned from this to have a bucket filled with warm water and dish soap ready to clean quills straightaway.
Below are a couple other beading projects I’ve done for gifts and fundraisers.
Star on canvas with quills and beads. Done while binging Walking Dead. Lol. Made for my Uncle Ron and Aunt Sheila. The link is to a newsletter that highlights their wedding aniversary, and life work with the Kateri Church in Kahnawake, Quebec.
Beaded badge. Donated for 60’s scoop fundraiser in Ottawa, Ontario.