Ok ya I’m a slacker (insert slacker jokes here) But something I saw today really pissed me off. Ok so lets go over the do’s and donts of historic research or at least of making stuff. So today I learned I’m a primary source. Man was I surprised sine I was born in 1976. To my mind this put me at least 200 years past the point when I should be used as a primary source (who knew). Dave Hassler at “woodland Wampum” posted images to Face book of his copy of a pair of garters from the Benjamin West collection and he posted an image of the item he was copying…and it was a pair of garters I posted here on my blog (complete with my foot).
Ok SO Benjamin West was a Pennsylvania born artist (born in 1738 ) who is known to have used period native artifacts in his artwork and while I am in some ways an artist and born in Pennsylvania (best dam state in the union BTW) and have used West’s collection as a basis for my reproductions the similarities end there.
Whats the big deal? Well while I did post my copy here to show off my work (hey I think I did a good job) My reproduction is not to be the basis for something someone else make for a customer (remember the game of telephone as a kid) On some pieces I clean up the originals as I’ve found that in many cases the non-symmetrical basis for a lot of 18th century native art is looked down upon by a modern anglo customer base ( to put it plainly honkeys don’t like mistakes…even if they show up in period objects)
So let’s go thru what most “artists” of native objects go thru making a piece. First let’s discount the hours and hours spent learning a craft (I’ve been weaving for 14 years at least at this point) So an artist wants to make item “A”. ok so first step is usually to go and look at Item “A” ( so add on gas/time to the equation) Second step is to look at items similar to item “A” in other collections ( More time/more travel) Then add in time to nail down Item in the artists skill set. Add in books with objetcs in it artist can’t make time to see (a lot of $ and time) and then add in more time for research on said object(s) providence (either by the artist or from outside source) and then add in costs for looking for dead on materials and then Bam item ready for sale (after 40+ hours work in most cases) So now you have an item ready to sell.
Now some of this stuff translates to other objects to sell but….see where I’m going here? Most artists put in years of research to finish items you want in a few months (or days in some cases) and then on top of this ya want a good deal right? Time in museums, time spent finding objects in museums, money spent on images of items in museums, time spent bothering friends for images of items in museums, empty promises to never share images from friends of said objects, time spent trading these images from friends to other friends for new images (but don’t tell you bastard) etc. etc….
Add to this more money spent on more books/articles/images did I mention money spent on images? (And payoffs to Eli for his Google fu skills) and travel…now you have an idea of what many of us do to pursue the sickness that is making reproductions. So to balance this out we do talks at historic sites/conferences and then bother each other some more. (Do you think I didn’t see all the images my friends showed at the EWC at Fort Pitt beforehand? It would have been cheaper to give Conde a few bottles of wine at an event to pick his brain on weaving but I believe in the EWC so fuck it)
Is this me crying about the rough life of an “artist”? fuck no. but it is me yelling about the fact that some folks feel like this info is free to the world. I post stuff to this blog on a regular basis, skills, objects etc Free of charge and I feel it’s moronic for some guy to take an image of an object I made to base a piece of “Cherokee” beadwork off of (what the fuck makes it Cherokee? Get your facts right slappy) Do your own research, share info but don’t Golem ™ ppl (Hint objects from the Pacis collection can be found in the Philippines or West Virginia)
And for the love of god don’t think for a second the small community of artists that make a lot of this stuff don’t talk (We skype and text each other like teenage girls…we don’t have coworkers to gossip with) so the same way ppl spread crap on msg boards we bitch about customers ( think of that when you try and shop for the best prices or shit talk an artist to an artist…we are concerned with your fixation on black stuff as well…get help)
My point? If you are going to make an object do your homework first (not someone else’s homework) ask questions most are willing to share info but don’t be surprised when the answer leads to more questions…it’s supposed to. For me the only ppl I share all my research with anymore are Native folks (white guilt? Maybe or maybe Russell Means would have wanted it that way… and it wasn’t my art form to start with) Oh and if you’re an anglo (or Portugese) artist that tosses around the label “Native made” or “Native artist” there are a lot of “The People” paying attention…