ᏍᎩ sgi (Cherokee), miigwetch (Ojibwe), ahéhee’ (Navajo), hyshka’ (Coast Salish), hai’ (Gwich’in), thank you (English)
Traditionally, I believe we expressed our thanks in many ways. Verbally of course, daily at the beginning and the end of every day, through dance and ceremony and many other aspects of daily life. Our lifestyle, in general, is one of gratitude, consideration, and balance.
Mike Crowe, member of Warriors of the AniKituwah and Museum of the Cherokee Indian
The North America / Turtle Island issue confronts us with an unusual problem. While much of our journey ventures to parts of the world that are rarely heard from, this issue is precisely the opposite. It is the dominance of North America in global news which blinds us to what is actually happening on the ground, particularly among those who dedicate their lives to making objects of lasting value.
Our instant connection to news gives us little protection from the latest tweet. We wince to see yet another moral standard broken. We see the constant disjunction between rampant consumerism and environmental catastrophe.
The stories in this issue tell a different time. They reflect more enduring themes. The craft they recount is slow, evolved over generations, absorbed into the body over years and exercised on the bench for months.
Rather than the resentment that feeds contemporary politics, these stories are more conducive to a feeling of gratitude.
We all know the story of how Thanksgiving came about in 1621, when English pilgrims invited the original inhabitants Wampanoag to sit down for a harvest feast. Like many encounters of first contact, it contained a promise of co-existence that was not realised in the subsequent settlement. After centuries of broken promises, Wampanoag Wamsutta James declared in 1971, “We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end.”
Despite this dispossession, many of the first peoples of North America / Turtle Island still persist with traditions of gratitude, some of these are reflected in this issue. Damara Jacob Morris honours her grandmother, Ruth Woodbury her Salish hosts, Kelly Church and Cherish Parish the black ash tree, Gabe Crowe the river cane, Barbara Teller Ornelas and Lynda Teller Pete the Spiderwoman ancestors, and Tania Larsson her community.
One focus for this today is the tree, which services as a symbol for our concern about the planet. Richard Powers’ novel Overstory movingly depicts the need to say thank you to the tree. The botanist Patricia Westerford addresses a dying cedar tree in the western Cascades:
Thank you for the baskets and the boxes. Thank you for the capes and hats and skirts. Thank you for the cradles. The beds. The diapers. Canoes. Paddles, harpoons, and nets. Poles, logs, posts. The rot-proof shakes and shingles. The kindling that will always light.
Commodities we buy in a shop are re-framed as gifts of nature. She concludes with an apology, We’re sorry. We didn’t know how hard it is for you to grow back.” (See D Wood’s article for a view of contemporary wood furniture through the lens of Power’s novel)
This kind of re-alignment reflects the challenge of culture across the globe. How to see nature less as a god-given resource and more as a gift to be cared for and passed on to future generations.
This issue itself is a combination of many gifts. First to Robert Wolf, the elder at the Cherokee village, who offered the work sgi for our issue. Then to USA Editorial Board member Namita Wiggers and faculty of the inspiring MA in Critical Craft Studies at Warren Wilson College, who helped gather stories by matt lambert, Anna Fariello, Jeffrey Keith and JD Harrison. Thanks to Canadian Editorial Board member Lycia Trouton for sourcing stories by Genevieve Weber, Daniel Moore, Ming Turner and Anna Taylor. And Aboriginal advisor Freja Carmichael for connecting us with the rich exchange across the Pacific.
It turns out, this issue is a unique moment to reflect on major contributions to our craft culture. It’s a chance to acknowledge the epic journey of @potsinaction led by Ayumi Horie, the hundreds of stories shared by HAND/EYE edited by Keith Recker, the fruitful India-Canada exchange built over years by Charllotte Kwon at MAIWA and the dedication of so many across Canada who created the inspiring #citizensofcraft campaign led by the Canadian Craft Foundation. Leanne Prain and Mandy Moore reflect on a decade of the quintessential US craftivism, yarn bombing. Reflecting the power of an heirloom as gift, Jeffrey Keith thanks his Apallachian forbears. Continuing the important reform of museum professions, Genevieve Weber writes about the role of gratitude in the job of an archivist. And in Asia, Kshitija Mruthyunjaya describes the fascinating Indian ritual of thanking tools. You can probably think of many more.
Many stories reflect a profound sense of place. Phillip Vannini shares the remarkable artisan haven in Gabriola Island. Lela Kulkarni looks at how place marking graffiti can be translated into stitched objects. Lily Lee and Tarah Hogue consider the aesthetic potential of local packaging. And Melissa Cameron writes about art that reflects the transitional cityscapes of Seattle.
We keep the US spelling that many authors have used to respect the linguistic diversity across the wider world. But we avoid the conflation of American for the USA given the existence of other countries in the continent.
Do please show your own thanks for these writers and artists by leaving comments on the articles.
The woman on our cover is Melvena Swimmer, a Cherokee ceramic artist, granddaughter of ceramicist Amanda Swimmer.