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How to Identify Antique Native American Artifacts and Artwork

Antique beaded items.

Tips to identify antique vs reproduction pieces of Native American art and craftwork.

Older items will show their age in specific ways. Things to look for:

  1. Wear in the right places
  2. Changes in color from light and air exposure
  3. Bug damage
  4. Metal will have small dings or scratches and aged patina
  5. Small breaks and tears in materials
  6. Antique beads are much less uniform than newer Czech beads
  7. The item is only as old as the newest material used.

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How to Choose the Right Thread

Types of thread

Choosing the best thread for your next project

What is the difference between types of thread? How do you choose the right thread for your craft project? The color of thread you use can change the look of your beadwork. If you are using a lot of translucent beads you may want a white thread. If you want a dark background on your loom work, use black. In this article we will go over the threads we offer and their uses.

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Abalone Shells Natural Beauty

What is Abalone?

Abalone are large sea mollusks (snails) that inhabit colder waters all over the world.  Abalone eat seaweed such as kelp. The different varieties it eats creates the different colors in the shells as they grow. Each layer contains calcium carbonate making the shell extremely strong.  The outside of these ear-shaped shells is often a host for barnacles algae and other invertebrates. The shells have holes in them which are respiratory openings for venting water from the gills. As the animal gets older the shell grows with them in a spiral pattern and the holes close up. Abalones can repair minor damage to their shells done by otters or humans trying to remove them from rocks, because of this they are a symbol of strength and healing.

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Hand Painted Feathers

Hand Painted Eagle Feathers

Turkey Feathers Painted to Look like Eagle Feathers

Traditionally Native Americans have used feathers from a variety of birds.  They use them to decorate their clothing, jewelry, accessories and as tools, like Smudge Feathers.  When people think about Natives using feathers, they often imagine the Feather Headdresses that men from Plains tribes wear.  These Headdresses consist of rows of Eagle Feathers.

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Braintanned Deerhide

Brain tanned deer skin hides

Braintanned Deerhide vs Commerically Tanned Deerhide

What is the difference between a Braintanned Deerhide and a commercially tanned Deerhide?  It is all about process and the quality of the finished product.  Commercial tanners use chemicals to soften and preserve the hide.  When they are finished, the deerhide has a smooth (top grain) and a suede side.  Sometimes these are ‘split’ to make a hide that has two suede sides.

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Birchbark Crafting

Birchbark Crafting

Crafting with Birchbark

Items made from Birchbark

Native Americans who live in the northern regions of North America use the bark of the ‘paper’ Birch tree to make many useful and decorative items.  They use large pieces of Birchbark to cover their dwellings.  Entire canoes with wood frames are made with strips of this bark.  Birchbark rolled into a triangular tube serves as a Moose call for hunters.  Birchbark Moose Call

Crafters create a variety of containers to hold and carry food.  Rogans are a type of basket that often has a trapezoidal shape with a narrower top.  Berry Baskets come with hBirchbark Fish Creelandles to carry them.  Shallow trays or round containers with the inside treated with pitch can be used to cook food or carry liquids.  Fish Creels with small openings in the lid hold the fisherman’s catch of the day.

In more recent times, crafters started using Birchbark to make picture frames, decorative mats, decorated boxes with lids, ornaments and jewelry.


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Osha Root for protection energy and health

What is Osha Root?


For more than a  millennia, Osha Root has been used by Native Americans. This perennial herb is found in deep rich soil in the mountains of the US and Mexico and is known by many different names: osha root, Porter’s lovage, Porter’s licorice-root, Porter’s wild lovage, Porter’s ligusticum, bear medicine, bear root, lovage, wild lovage, Indian root, Indian parsley, wild parsley, mountain ginseng, mountain carrot, nipo, empress of the dark forest, overoot, Colorado cough root, chuchupate, chuchupati, chuchupaste, chuchupatle, guariaca, hierba del cochino or yerba de cochino, raíz del cochino, and washí (tarahumara).

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Sweetgrass, Hierochloe Odorata, is a beautiful sacred plant growing in the northern half of the U.S., up to the arctic circle. Sometimes called Buffalo Grass or Vanilla Grass, it spreads by underground rhizomes and prefers damp lowland areas. Because of its connection to water and its sweet smell it is considered feminine. People use it for ceremonies and healing along with sage and cedar. Continue reading Sweetgrass

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Hand Made Dolls

Hand Made Dolls 

Hand Made Dolls

If there is a universal child’s toy, it may well be a doll.  Whether hastily made from scrap material at hand, or painstakingly made to exacting detail, dolls “speak” to our humanity.  At first glance, dolls are simple play-things… suffering the ravages of many other mere “toys”.  However, there are many other reasons dolls are created and decorated for children.  Dolls may also be used to teach children important cultural and educational lessons in dress, hair style, adornment and dexterity.

Some dolls are created for specific purposes or occasions.  Others are made with whimsy and artistic license.  There are no limits to the variety of dolls.  This author is particularly interested in beadwork as a decorative medium.  By making a basic cloth doll body, there are unlimited ways to construct and decorate these miniature personalities. Continue reading Hand Made Dolls

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Native Americans and Buffalo

Native Americans and Buffalo

Native Americans and Buffalo

Native Americans and Buffalo have a long history together. Buffalo, or the American Bison, has played an essential role in the survival and culture of the Native Americans who lived in the Plains region of what is now the United States, and parts of southern Canada.  Buffalo once roamed the Plains in innumerable herds until the middle of the 19th century. Incursions by white settlers and the arrival of the railroad severely depleted the number of Buffalo living on the Plains.  Native Americans use of every part of a Buffalo for food, clothing, tools, fuel and utensils. Continue reading Native Americans and Buffalo

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Crafting is Fun and Good for You


Native American Crafting is Good for You

Crafting is an activity that brings different ideas to mind, depending on who is considering it. Some remember rainy day activities that involved empty containers and construction paper, others think of projects that involve buying supplies to create a particular item, and some consider it an everyday activity that is part of their lifestyle.

Crafting has had different purposes throughout human history. Creating functional objects from raw materials is certainly an important aspect of crafting. Expressing emotions, beliefs and esthetic ideals is another. Satisfying an inner desire to create by fashioning something beautiful or unexpected is a basic human trait.

What is the appeal of crafting today? Are there benefits for the crafter? Continue reading Crafting is Fun and Good for You

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Real Animal Sinew and Imitation Sinew

Real Sinew and Imitation Sinew

What Is Real Animal Sinew?

Sinew is a fibrous band of tissue also known as a tendon. Tendons connect muscles to bones in animals. These fibers have been used by many pre-industrial societies because they are strong and durable. Real animal sinew has unique properties which make it an excellent material for sewing and binding. It contains natural proteins that act like glue and it shrinks as it dries, so it doesn’t need to be knotted. Continue reading Real Animal Sinew and Imitation Sinew