Category: Behind the Design

Native Artists x Tea Collection: Meet Crystal Worl

Artist Crystal Worl, based in Juneau, Alaska, is a child of a Thunderbird and from the Chilkat region in Southeast Alaska.  From her mother’s side, she is Deg Hit’an Athabascan from Fairbanks Alaska.  She is co-owner of Trickster Company with her brother, Rico Worl, which promotes innovative indigenous design focused on Northwest Coast art.  We were thrilled to partner with Crystal for several winter product collaborations including storytelling tees featuring her original artwork.  Read on for more of her story and the inspiration behind her work!

Crystal’s original artwork is featured on storytelling tees this winter

 

You were introduced at a young age to traditional arts, practices and storytelling from your parents’ tribes.  Can you share more about these experiences as a child?

My family recognized and nurtured my interest in art.  My mother showed me how to bead, sew and encouraged my creativity. Every Saturday morning, I would watch my favorite cartoons.  And, I would also watch the artist Bob Ross on the public TV channel.  Because I loved watching Bob Ross, I would often get a Bob Ross painting kit.

I was raised with my Athabascan family in the Interior of Alaska during the winter months.  My mother has a big family so we were surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins for family gatherings, potlatches, traditional dances or harvesting berries and/or salmon and meals.  Moose soup is my favorite!  My mother nurtured our interests in dance, gymnastics and art.

When summer came, we headed to Southeast Alaska to stay with my father’s family and my Tlingit grandmother. Visiting with family and playing with cousins was the highlight.  Our Uncle would take us out on his boat to fish and harvest traditional foods like salmon, cockle clams, and gumboots.  We would also learn more about our clans, family history and traditions through storytelling and hearing and speaking Tlingit.  It was important to my grandmother that her grandchildren know their tribal identity and how to introduce themselves in a public event, especially when attending sacred ceremonies.

Looking back, I see how valuable my unstructured time with my brothers was in nurturing my creativity.  We have great memories of building intricate cities made of Legos that even included telephone poles with wires.

All my family supported me in different ways.  My dad’s skills are finance and management.  He is teaching me about business and art.  He would get excited about my art and encourage me to create a business.  It helps when you have parents that tell you that you can do anything and everything is possible.

In our collaboration pieces this season, you highlight stories of animals: deer, raven, porpoise and polar bear.  How do these stories resonate with you personally?

Tlingit and Athabascan people have identified themselves as unified with the land and animals that gives them life.

Tlingit kinship is based on a clan system or extended family groups.  Tlingit clans are associated with specific animals, birds or fish.  Oral traditions and songs record the interaction between humans and animals and how clans obtained the right to use their images as crests on their ceremonial regalia or jewelry.

In Tlingit and Athabascan culture, we maintain both physical and spiritual relationships with the environment and animals.  Animals have given us life through feeding us, clothing us, and teaching us to co-exist with the environment.

The paintings with the Deer, Raven, Porpoise, and Polar Bear are used in the Tea Collection collaboration. I hope that when a viewer sees these paintings [see original works below] that they gain an insight into the relationship that I have to my culture and the connections we have with the land and animals.

 

 

 

 

 

You work with many different types of media in your art.  What are some of the materials that you have been most interested in recently and why?

I have explored multiple mediums from jewelry, sewing, beading, glass-making and even film production and more.  My favorite is painting. Recently, I explored tanning fish skin for various uses.  I taught myself how to make resin molds for bangles and earrings.

Fishing is important subsistence activity for our family and I have participated in helping on the boat and processing the fish. I explored the use of using natural dyes, like berries, to dye my fish skins and my wood laser cut earrings.  I am following my heart and the heartbeat of my ancestors that tanned fish skin for everyday household objects like bowls and used berry juice to create color in their life.

What are some of the themes and issues in Native culture that you are most interested in highlighting through your work?

Trickster Company was started by my brother quite by accident.  He was hand-painting skateboards for our cousins with Northwest Coast art formline.  Rico saw a way for youth to connect their culture through the use of  everyday objects such as skateboards, basketballs and playing cards.  Trickster Company was born to bring culture and pride into everyday experiences – our culture is alive and thriving today.  It is not just symbolized by relics in a museum.  It lives in our hearts, minds and daily activities.  We show our pride by wearing our clan crests and art every day.

Trickster Company is proud to partner with the Tea Collection to honor our ancestors, our culture and the beautiful gift of Northwest Coast Formline Art.

 

 

 

Native Artists x Tea Collection: Museum of Indian Arts & Culture Textile Designs

While in Santa Fe, we had the opportunity to visit The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, home to an extensive collection of Native art and material artifacts. The Museum opened in 1931, with a mission to collect and preserve Southwest Native American material culture. In partnership with the museum, our latest winter styles feature products inspired by textiles in the collection.

What significance do textiles have as an art form among the Southwestern natives?

Weaving is integral component of life, identity and creative expression amongst the Southwestern Indian peoples — and has been so for thousands of years.

The Navajo, Pueblo and Hopi peoples of the Southwest are all known for and regarded for their weaving traditions. Though their weaving styles and designs differ, they all share in the belief that weaving was a gift given to them by Spider Woman. Through her communication these Southwestern Indian people learned how to spin and weave and, in so doing, gained the ability to create beauty and share both a personal and cultural expression.

To learn more about the Myth of Spider Woman visit:  https://youtu.be/c_Tj4lr8i_k

The first weavers were the Pueblo people of the Southwest and cotton and yucca were the initial fibers they used to make clothing, ceremonial dress and blankets. When the Spanish arrived in the early 1500’s they introduced the churro sheep and their long staple wool became the main weaving fiber.

In the late 1880’s trading posts opened up throughout the Southwest; and shortly thereafter the railroad arrived, delivering to the region new materials, new styles and new, and more frequent visitors. With so much fresh information and increase in demand, the focus and style of weaving changed. There was less need for woven basics and more demand from collectors and tourists for weavings to buy. Responding to the changing tastes and trends of the time, Southwest Native weavers produced more rugs than the traditional wearing blankets. A full 130 years later, the weaving tradition continues, with the native peoples of the Southwest making ceremonial dress, belts, and rugs both for personal use and for sale to collectors.

Stylistically, what are Southwestern native weavers known for?

There is no one style of weaving or pattern for which the Southwest is known, as every weaver approaches their craft differently. The one concept that does unify all weavings is the sense of balance, beauty and harmony with which all weavers approach their creative process. From gathering wool, to spinning, dying and weaving, gratitude and honor is accorded to the animals that provide the wool, the natural elements that nourish both the animals and the plants from which dyes are made.

What is life like within Southwestern Native communities today?

In New Mexico there are 19 Pueblos – or villages, located along or near the route of the Rio Grande River. The Pueblo people have lived in these towns or ones close by for over 1000 years. The ancient traditions of pottery, weaving, basketry, and jewelry making – are very much alive today and still practiced by the current generations.

The Navajo were originally a nomadic people who tended sheep. They moved as needed based on the season and the availability of good feed and water for the animals. That sheep were so integral to the Navajo way of life, it is understandable that they would become great weavers. While the Navajo are no longer nomadic and live in towns scattered across their 27,000 square mile reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, herding, wool processing and weaving is still practiced.

The Hopi people live in northeastern Arizona in small villages or settlements that have been there since time immemorial. Like the Pueblo people and the Navajo, the Hopi weaving traditions continue to thrive.

What types of tools and techniques do these artisans use when crafting their pieces?

Weavers the world round use the same tools – shears for harvesting wool from the sheep, carding combs to clean and separate the fibers, spindles to make the fiber into yarn, and looms for weaving the fibers. To learn more about the weaving process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vyw93hJt__g

Shop Museum of Indian Arts & Culture x Tea Collection here.

 

 

Behind the Design: Native Artists x Tea Collection

Native Artists x Tea Collection Fall Collaboration

The US is home to people of many cultures, identities, and walks of life. Some of us are here because generations ago our great grandparents and great, great grandparents left their home countries and set sail to a new land filled with promise of hope and opportunity. Others emigrated more recently. And then there are those whose ancestry traces back to the first people to call the US their home.

Our 2018 collection embarks on a journey across America, exploring its kaleidoscope of cultures and celebrating the communities that make each region so unique. Honoring America’s first cultures, this season, we collaborated with indigenous artists all over the country to create original art that’s true to tribal tradition and designed to inspire curiosity.

Learn more about the inspiration behind our exclusive Native Artists x Tea Collection designs.

NATIVE ARTISTS X TEA COLLECTION: MEET J GROWING THUNDER

J Growing Thunder

A three-generation grandmother, mother, daughter trio, J Growing Thunder represents three distinguished Native American artists: Joyce, Juanita, and Jessa Rae Growing Thunder. A member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine (Nakoda) and Sioux (Dakota) tribes of Montana, matriarch, Joyce, spent much of her childhood gathered around with all of the grandmothers watching them bead. Quick to pick up their talents, she began designing her own quillwork and beadwork at a young age and, by the 1980’s, made a name for herself as one of the West’s most highly regarded beadworkers. Today her daughter and granddaughter follow in her footsteps, carrying on this cultural heritage and tradition.

Not only were we lucky enough to collaborate with these talented women on our latest Native Artists x Tea Collection designs, but we had the unique opportunity to get to know their story. Follow along for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of their life and work.

NATIVE ARTISTS X TEA COLLECTION: MEET JEFFREY GIBSON

Native Artists x Tea Collection Jeffrey Gibson

A passionate painter and sculptor, New York-based artist, Jeffrey Gibson, draws on his Choctaw-Cherokee heritage, blending traditional indigenous techniques and materials—beads, hides, and vibrant fabrics—with contemporary motifs and colorful narratives. His work is exquisitely handcrafted, and beautifully unexpected. We were so lucky to tap his creative genius for our fall collaboration prints. Here he gives us a bit of perspective on his life and craft.

NATIVE ARTISTS X TEA COLLECTION: MEET JULIA MARDEN

Native Artists x Tea Collection Julia Marden

Internationally recognized Eastern Woodland artist, Julia Marden, looks to her native Aquinnah Wampanoag roots as a source of creative inspiration. Weaving together the ancient stories and traditions of her people with nature’s finest materials, she handicrafts some of the most incredible 17th century basketry around. An equally accomplished painter and beadwork artist, we were lucky to get the chance to collaborate with her to bring her beautifully painted gourds and authentic beadwork designs to life in our Fall prints. Here’s what we learned about her in the process.

Mexican Motifs: Otomi Embroidery

The Southwest is alive with the vibrant folk art motifs that are so characteristic of indigenous artwork found all over Mexico. Developed by the native Otomi people in the small, plateau town of Tenango, are some of the most fantastic embroidered textiles we’ve ever set eyes on. Drawing inspiration from bold colors, animals, and floral prints, the time-honored tradition of Otomi embroidery is hinted at in a handful of our summer styles.