Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fish, Friendships and Making

This post is for my "sister to the south" Tracey. As artists we can sometimes find ourselves feeling overwhelmed by our gift of creativity and Making. That bright flame of inspiration burning can also feel draining when it dims. I hope these images will inspire my friend to start Making again...

Last year our friend Gretchen arranged for 12 of us to participate in a workshop/class taught by well-known Athabaskan artist Audrey Anderson. Audrey lovingly committed to pass on the knowledge she learned from Fran Reed, a pioneer fiber artist who started working with fish skins in 1986. Fran sadly died of cancer in 2008. Ironically, during our August workshop I remembered a poster that I designed for the Alaska State Council on the Arts featuring Fran's new "Pink Floats" (pink Salmon skin vessels) that were to be given as awards. During this workshop taught by Audrey and being surrounded by fellow "skin sisters" I felt as if I had been freed from my self-imposed art making boundaries and was once again rejuvenated in my Making.

"Salmon skin can be tougher than Gore-Tex or as soft as velvet. And everything you need to transform the scaly hide into a workable piece of clothing or art material can be found in your kitchen -- as three Alaska Native women are showing this week at the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in the Anchorage Museum." -Fish Skin artists share their skills at Smithsonian Center, Anchorage Daily News 

Read more here:

1996 "Pink Floats" by artist Fran Reed
This image was taken by photographer Chris Arend and was used for the 30th Anniversary poster for the Alaska State Council on the Arts. A poster was designed by Cindy Shake 
Athabaskan artist Audrey Anderson with her fish purse, taught our 12 person workshop in August.
I'm preparing my tails and one of the two skins (right) that has been cleaned.
The cleaning was the hardest part. All of the fat and meat must be removed using a traditional Ulu so the skin will dry and cure without a "fishy" smell. Using imitation sinew to sew the skins together while wet also proved challenging. My poor fingers were pretty beat up afterwards!

Once back in my studio, my "purse" was stuffed with paper towels and hung near a cool fan to begin the drying process. My favorite part was embellishing using moose hair I had found last year and a beautiful beaded "The Tree of Life" medallion my mom had made.

Gretchen (left) chose to make a hanging lamp shade and Lynn (right) chose to make a barrel shaped purse with fin embellishments.

Barbara (left) loves all things Mermaid! Her handmade Fimo mermaids were strung around the body of her bag and Jana (right) chose to have her design be a hanging vessel.

My purse took two whole salmon sewn belly to back for contrast. Thankfully, one of the fish was caught by my friend Shannon's husband Alex as I've been skunked this year and the others we bought from a set netter, we filleted and put in the smoker!
The favorite part of my purse is the "Tree of Life" hand beaded medallion my mom made. While I was making my purse I was thinking about all the friendships surrounding this process, the glass beads being the color of salmon eggs, how I had finally found a project to use the moose hair on and had been able to share the moose hair with Tracey last year. 

After the workshop we named ourselves "The Twisted Tail Skin Sisters" and found that the "Chum" or "Dog" salmon were the best to use but everyone in the class had various species and created various designs -all inspired by Audrey who was ultimately inspired by our friend Fran. 

1 comment:

Tracey Broome said...

Only in Alaska! I still have a mason jar with the moose hair in it, I use it sparingly in projects, I love it so much. Last year I wove a scarf for my daughter with mohair and wove in strands of the moose hair, along with hair from our dog and cat, it was really amazing! Thanks for thinking of me, all is well, just wandering aimlessly and having fun