Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Powwow Circle Revisited

I'm wrapping up the year with some of my favorite or most popular posts from 2008. This one, first posted in July, looks pretty good to me right now in contrast to the blizzard raging outside.

I spent the Fourth of July weekend in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. Known as the Soo by locals, it's a port of entry with Sault Ste Marie, Ontario and home to the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians on both sides of the border. Site of one of the longest-running continuous powwows in North America, this year was the 27th annual.

Powwows are laid out in a circle, like the medicine wheel. In the center is the arbor. This is where the drums gather to sing and beat out the rhythm of Earth's heartbeat for the dancers.

The dancers' circle moves around the drum arbor. Like the medicine wheel, it begins in the east, where the gate for entry and exit is located. Movement within the circle proceeds, like the wheel, from east through south, to the west and then north before winding up back in the east where all begins.

Around the outside of this blessed circle is the area where people gather to watch and the vendors set up their canopies and sell their wares.
Symbolizing the unity of all as children of the same creator, as well as calling to mind the different stages of life as a human, the wheel is a powerful emblem in many traditions.
In the Anishinabek traditions of the Great Lakes the wheel is laid out with yellow to the east, red in the south, black to the west and white in the north. The colors represent the different races in some teachings, and in others they stand for stages of life or states of mind. There are wonderful teachings available on these things, and better venues than my blog; I recommend this website as a place to start:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Passion for Pouches

To wrap up the year, I am going to repost some of my favorite or most popular articles from 2008. This post about making pouches was first published in July. Since I'm currently on a pouch-making frenzy, it seems appropriate.

My supply of pouches has been crying for attention, and finally I gave it some. Deer hide pouches, sized for wearing around the neck or carrying, with fringe and cones or fetishes of bone.
My methods are decidedly low-tech. All pieces are scissor-cut by hand from my own patterns, holes are individually punched with drive punches and a mallet, and hand-cut deerhide laces are used to bind it all together. Fringe-pieces are inset, adding to the strength of the pouch bottom.

The stitch I use is a lot less fancy than it looks -- it's a simple whip-stitch, but I whip it in both directions. In truth, I never cared for the whip-stitch as a binding on bags, though it's the way I was taught long ago in my hippy-leather days. It tends to pull everything in one direction, and it leaves gaps where stuff inside the pouch can protrude. Out of this frustration came the idea to reverse the whip-stitch at the end and run it back the other way in the hope that it would pull everything even and close those gaps. It worked so well I've been using it almost exclusively ever since. Looks handsome too, doesn't it?

Fringe is cut with scissors after the pouch is stitched -- less tangling that way.

I use round braids for my straps, feeding them through round holes before binding them and adding a decorative touch of cones or a fetish.

Most of these will wind up as medicine bags; carrying someone's tobacco or personal spiritual items. That's both an honor and a responsibility that I don't take lightly. Every one of my pouches is individually made in a good way.

The fact I have so much fun doing it is a bonus for me!

Stone Pendants in Leather Settings; Earth Medallions

To wrap up the year, I am going to repost some of my favorite or most popular articles from 2008. This post, first published in October, received several lovely comments.

I really like wearing stones, and leather compliments the feel of the stone nicely. So I've created these. I call them Earth Medallions; an homage to the gifts of our planet. The leather setting frames the treasure inside perfectly without overpowering it, allowing the stone to remain the star.
They've been very popular for me -- perhaps the first "it" item I've ever created. Frankly, I can understand why and I'm not sure I can grab much of the credit. When you start with something as beautiful as a natural bit of rock, it's difficult to go wrong!

There are varieties of agate, bits of fossil, chunks of semi-precious gemstones... the appeal is universal. They have found homes around the necks of men and women throughout the world, thanks to the wonders of the Internet and the associated ease of selling internationally. The furthest-flung order I've filled was from Slovakia, which is real thrill for a small-town crafter!
I'd love to show you all of my favorites, but the problem with that is that they are all my favorite!! Every time I get to the part of the process where I cut the window to reveal the beauty within, I get a thrill of satisfaction that is tough to quantify!
For a look at my current inventory, visit my shop on Etsy at
Check back often, as I am always making more! My only regret? So many rocks, so little time!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Petoskey Stone -- State Stone of Michigan

To wrap up the year, I am going to repost some of my favorite or most popular articles from 2008. This info on the Petoskey Stone was first posted in March.

During the Devonian period Michigan was very different than it is now. It lay geographically near the equator and was covered by a warm shallow sea, which was home to large coral reefs. Fragments of those reefs live on in the Petoskey Stone, which can be found only in Michigan.

In its natural form it is plain and gray; indistinguishable from limestone rocks. But wet it with water or polish it, and the distinctive segments of coral fossil spring into view!

The word Petoskey is derived from the Odawa word Pah-toh-se-geh, which means "rising sun" or "rays of dawn". It was the name of a renowned chief of the Odawa Nation, and there is some dispute as to whether the stone was named for him or for the actual meaning of the word.
It was officially named the State Stone of Michigan in 1965; the first fossil ever so designated.

I made a trip today to Nawbin in Traverse City (my favorite bead & rock store) and the owner surprised me with a lovely selection of Petoskey Stone cabochons! Of course, they are now destined to be set in leather and turned into Earth Medallions. (Nawbin now has a shop on Etsy -- make sure to look them up!)

Here's a sampling!!

Fringe has Function

To wrap up the year, I am going to repost some of my favorite or most popular articles from 2008. This one seemed to delight a number of readers when I first posted it in February. Enjoy!

In fashion Fringe comes and goes.
On a jacket or a bag, sometimes adorned with beads, it brings to mind images of hippies or frontier folk and Native Americans. Since people have been wearing leather, leather has been wearing fringe. The reason is more than decorative, it's elemental; fringe wicks water. It will pull moisture away from the wearer and facilitate drying.

In modern times this has become less critical. Most of us, if caught in a downpour, will open an umbrella or dash for shelter. Most of us would go to great lengths to protect our leather from getting wet enough to require wicking.

Personal preference is the determining factor now -- my preference is fringe and lots of it! The fuller and more flowing, the better!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Process Revisited

To wrap up the year, I am going to repost some of my favorite or most popular articles from 2008. This was my opening post from back in February. Enjoy!

One of the questions I hear most often about carved leather items is, "How long did it take to make that?"

Not an easy question to answer. Every project has its own demands, and each is a creation unto itself. I rarely work a piece from start to finish in one burst; there are waiting periods for drying at different stages along the way, and I usually have several pieces going at the same time. Work on one while another is drying...

First is drawing and cutting.

Next I add texture.

Then it is carved in...

Final steps are painting by hand for brilliant color, then several different steps of finishing products to enhance detail and add protection and background color.
The whole process took many hours, but I think it was worth every minute!
(The sharp-eyes among you will notice that the finished belt with full color is not the same one in the carving examples (different leaves; directional flow is different) -- consider this proof of two things; like i said, more than one project working at a time and even with similar patterns, every handcrafted belt is a unique creation!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Traditions

My family has many Holiday traditions, some new and some that go back through generations.
One of our favorite and longest-standing is the annual
yum of Thumbprint Cookies.
I remember helping my mother make them when i was very small, and my children grew up helping me. When my oldest daughter spent the Holiday season in Italy during college, her one request from home was for a tin of these favored treats. My youngest daughter agrees -- it's just not Christmas if there aren't any Thumbprints!
This is an unusual cookie recipe -- It contains equal amounts of ground
nuts and flour, giving them a wonderful texture. There isn't much sugar to the recipe, and no eggs or leavening products. Trust me; none of this is a typo!
They bake on low heat and will come out of the oven looking very much like they did when they went in.
my oh my! Very rich, nutty and flaky; they are sure to become a favorite with anyone who tries them!

So Merry Christmas -- my gift to you is this wonderful family recipe... enjoy!

Thumbprint Cookies


1 Cup all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Cup finely ground walnuts or pecans (I use walnuts)

For filling; chocolate chips, apple jelly

Combine and set aside:

Cream together in Large Mixing bowl or food processor:
Powdered sugar
after these are well blended, add vanilla and stir just long enough to mix it in.

Add dry ingredients, 1/2 at a time, mixing well between halves. Add nuts and continue working the batter until you have a firm ball and a clean bowl.
Cover and chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.

To Bake:
Preheat oven to 300f

Spoon off teaspoon-sized chunks from the batter ball and roll into small balls, about the size of a large marble. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2" apart.
Make an indentation with your thumb and fill with chocolate chips or a small bit of apple jelly. (For a festive holiday look, the apple jelly can be dyed red or green with food coloring -- I'm a purist and prefer the natural gold color.)
Bake for 20 minutes.
Cool for several minutes before removing from cookie sheet with a spatula. Cool completely before eating.

How many you get depends on how big you roll them -- I get about 2 1/2 dozen per batch, and I always make several batches! (Multiple batches should be prepared separately and not combined for 1 larger batch.)

This is a cookie that benefits from being made ahead of time, as they are even better after sitting in a tin or covered container overnight!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Change is _________. (Fill In the Blank)

Change is... Scary? Inevitable? Exhilarating? Yes, all of the above and more.
After many changes through the years of doing what I do, I find myself staring at another.

If you've been following my blog, you know that my stone & leather pendants, called Earth Medallions, have been more popular than I could have anticipated.

So very popular, in fact, that I am now faced with the difficult reality that I may need to abandon most of the rest of what I make just to keep up with the demand. A mixed blessing, to be sure. While it's certainly wonderful to have found such an "it" item, it may necessitate a long period of time not tooling leather belts, not making regalia pieces, not going to powwows.

I have already quit making my deerhide bags for now-- they are very labor intensive and I've always had a hard time getting paid sufficiently for the work and materials involved.

Of course, change need not be permanent, and it's likely that the fervor for my pendants will fade after a time. So though I may change course for awhile, I will also look to the day when I can change back.

For now I am still making wristbands -- they allow me to keep tooling (which I love!) and to use up some of my belt leather while not taking too much time away from my EM's. I also will still fill belt orders and will consider regalia requests on a per-item basis.

Change is inevitable, I've decided, and exhilarating. And a bit scary.

I still have some belts left in stock -- they'll be available until they're gone. I still have guitar straps -- a holiday tradition with me, and I have a nice selection of Earth Medallions including (at posting time) all of the lovelies pictured here.
So Happy Holidays to all. Happy changes as well!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Let it Snow, Let it Snow...

What I woke to this morning...
Color pictures of my black & white world; further words unnecessary!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Getting it Done!

With the Holidays upon us and a notion in mind to help stuff everyone's stocking, I have been busy in my little workshop! Besides the guitar straps I posted about yesterday, I have been making oodles of belts, piles of wristbands and as many of my Earth Medallions as I can wrap leather around!

Here are some samplings from my recent listings and custom orders -- a story in pictures of the hours of my days!

Just a teaser list, of course... visit me at my Etsy shop to see more!

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Guitar Straps

It's gotten darned cold outside -- snow on the ground and temps in the teens. Powwow season is behind me for the year and it's time to change direction. Still, it can be difficult to leave the dancing, the colors and the patterns behind. My solution? Guitar straps!

Using the same love of color I employ in making belts for powwow regalia, as well as similar motifs and patterns, I turn wide strips of leather into unique guitar straps.

Adjustable and so durable they literally will last a lifetime or longer, these straps are starting to appear in my shop just in time for Christmas gifting!

They're made of full-grain cowhide and are all fully tooled. A musician's style is unique; why shouldn't their accessories be just as individualized?
I have a couple listed at a few more waiting for pictures to get taken. This is just a sampling...

I'm working feverishly to get more done, and I'm always willing to make one to custom order! Thanks for looking!