Monday, November 1, 2010

Twisty Talking Sticks

Twisty Vine Growing Up a Tree at The Villa
Sometimes I devote a lot of time to certain beadwork projects, and my Talking Sticks are some of those. I have a limited number (60 or so) of gorgeous old twisty grape vine sticks that I collected in a very special place where I used to go to be alone when I was growing up. The place was called "The Villa," and it was an old estate in a town where I lived for a few years. The size of the twisty sticks ranges from a few inches to over 3 feet long.

The Greenhouse Foundations
Back in the heyday of this gorgeous place, there were greenhouses on the acreage, covering a lot of ground, where they grew roses, but by the time I started going there The Villa was untended and overgrown, though there was still at least one person living in the big house. The name of my hometown was "Rose City," and that is most likely what they raised in these greenhouses (roses).

Steps to the Greenhouse
So I would sit on these steps, reflecting on things and daydreaming in this beautiful place. I was never afraid there, was always completely alone except for birds and animals, and poison ivy, which I always used to get into, still do in fact.

I would collect sticks when I walked there, am sure no one would miss them, and feel they're happy to have a continuing purpose. I think they're old grapevines, not from a cultivated grape, but from wild ones. And some of the twisty sticks are from old wisteria vines. Anyway, here's what I do with these treasures:

Twisty Stick Being Groomed
I shave the bark off, which used to take a lot of time until I learned to soak it in water for a few days - then the bark peels right off like a banana peel. After the bark's removed, I sand the stick and stain it. I love to feel it twirl in my fingers as I work with it.

Staining the Wood

I love to choose the materials I'll use to dress it. These may include fur (usually rescued from antique stores), leather, and definitely seed beads, plus some gorgeous fringe beads chosen for special meaning.

Choosing the Materials
After it's stained and dry and I've chosen the dressing materials, I begin by gluing on the fur and the leather. For this Talking Stick, the fur is silver fox (the red leather is for vitality, and fox represents camouflage - more on representation a bit further on...).

Dressed in Fur and Leather

The colors of the beads I choose are important, as they each represent something.  More on this a bit later too.

I am beading, beading, beading
It takes me about 150 hours, 14 yards of thread, and 12,000 size 11/0 seed beads to make a Talking Stick like this one, which is about 12 inches from tip to tip. Going around the curves is quite a challenge to say the least. I pass the thread through each bead twice, using the Peyote stitch. So I bead and I bead and watch the seasons change outside the window, and then at last, it's ready for the fringe.

At last, ready for fringe!
Now the fringe is the best part, not only because it feels deeelicious running through your fingers, but because each bead chosen for the fringe also represents something about the person I'm making the Talking Stick for.

Fringe on Moonjie's Talking Stick
I made this Talking Stick for my friend Moon, and sent her photographs of the progress throughout the year. She was so excited to finally receive it. She lives in Missouri, is part Native American, and uses it in ceremony with many other women.

Each Talking Stick has an Answering Feather to go with it, and here is what the fringe on Moon's Answering Feather looks like:

Moon's Answering Feather Fringe
I use commercial feathers that I buy in Oregon for the Answering Feathers. These are from birds that are not protected migratory species. They're painted very carefully to look like other feathers, such as eagle or owl, and serve quite well (they're very strong). Here's what the beadwork looks like on Moon's Answering Feather (you can see it has a bit of silver fox fur as well):

Moon's Answering Feather
The Back of Moon's Answering Feather
After I finished Moon's Talking Stick I had to start another one, this time for me to keep. It has my special colors that were given to me in a dream (red, green, blue, gold, cream) and some very special fringe beads.
My Talking Stick
So you may be wondering what a Talking Stick is all about. It comes from a Native American custom that was used when the people would gather to talk, be heard, and make decisions. If you held the Talking Stick, you had to speak the truth, and no one could interrupt you. If someone wanted to interject, they had to make a sign, and then you would hand them the Answering Feather. In this way, important things were sorted out with civility and respect. I'd guess that many could use this tool today to great benefit. In Native tradition, it's more common for a person to make their own Talking Stick and Answering Feather than to have one made, but few people continue this tradition today. For information on where I get some of my most beloved Native references, check out Jamie Sams Sacred Path Cards and Jamie Sams and David Carson's Medicine Cards. I've been using them for 25 years for several purposes, and they're uncannily communicative and accurate. In contrast to traditional European tarot cards, these are very positive, no matter which one you choose, and they share the incredibly gorgeous teachings of many tribes of Native Americans.

Look for the occasional Talking Stick in my Etsy Shop, Dreamkeeper Creations, but don't hold your breath, they take a while (it'll probably be about 2012 when the first one becomes available there - they're high ticket items, generally commissioned.)


No comments:

Post a Comment