Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Beothuk Birch Bark Quiver Progress

The quiver... so far, so good.
My main goal in the workshop this week is to finish the reproduction Beothuk birch bark quiver.  Probably the biggest obstacles to overcome are that I don't have a lot of experience with working with birch bark like this or a pattern to work from.  As far as I know, there are no surviving Beothuk quivers and for a visual reference I only have one contemporary drawing to refer to.      

Detail from a 1773 map by John Cartwright.  I've used this reference before for bows and arrows and have found it to be accurate and plausible representations of the actual implements.  As I make the quiver, I'm finding the details of the quivers design and construction to be equally plausible and helpful.  There are details in the spruce stitching that make a lot of sense. 

The first step in assembling the brich tube was to sew the long seam running the length of the quiver.  I marked out the holes and drilled them prior to lashing them together with spruce root.  The 5 Xs in the foreground of the photo are the spruce root stitches and the pegs running off into the distance are holding the unlashed portion of the tube together through the drilled holes.

One of the big challenges was figuring out how to stitch the middle of the tube.  Working near the end wasn't so bad but as you get farther and farther into the cylinder it became impossible to thread the root through the holes just using my fingers.  I twisted and taped a long wire to the end of the root and used it as a kind of needle to thread the awkard stitches in the middle of the tube.  I don't know what the Beothuk did.  Maybe their quivers were a little longer, or maybe the sewers had smaller hands and arms than me.

I wanted to match a design element on the top of the illustrated quivers and used existing Beothuk Birch Bark baskets as the inspiration for the technique.  In her book, "A History and Ethnography or the Beothuk",  Ingeborg Marshall shows photos of decorated Beothuk birch bark baskets and says that the design was done like porcupine quillwork, but with spruce roots instead.  The designs look sewn in, but in reality, each portion of the design is a separate 2 inch section of root, inserted and folded in place.  I'm working the design into a sheet of bark that will then be stitched around the top of the quiver.

The birchbark sheet with the spruce quill work is shown in place here, although it hasn't been stitched on yet.  The pins are holding it in place.  You can start to see the overall look of the quiver.  There is still a fair bit more stitching to do, it needs some sort of shoulder strap added and then the whole thing will be covered in red ochre.  I'm looking forward to the final product.

I didn't quite know how to close off the bottom end of the quiver, but Lori gave me the solution.  I made a round disc and folded it around the edges, kind of like a coffee filter and inserted that into the bottom of the tube.  There is a small sapling ring holding it in place.  The light coloured band is another section of bark wrapped around the outside of the tube to add more strength to hold the stitches.  I tried sewing the bottom disc in place without that band and the bark started to tear.  If I would have continued, the bottom 3/4 of an inch of the tube would have just peeled off.  Adding the piece of bark with the grain running in the opposite direction seemed to give the tube enough support to stay in one piece.  

 Photo Credits:
1, 3-7: Tim Rast
2: Plate from Howley, James P. 1914 The Beothuck or Red Indians: The Aboriginal Inhabitants of Newfoundland. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge

1 comment:

  1. Nice article, thanx for sharing and greetings from Romania.


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