Published on March 10, 2014 by Amy
Among the Native American people, the Sioux were known for their quillwork, beadwork and buffalo hide painting. They were also known to practice other native crafts, including pottery, parfleche and calumets. Some of these crafts are still practiced by native artisans today, and examples can be seen in museums.
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Quillwork is an art form where porcupine quills were soaked until soft, then dyed. They were then woven together and used to decorate leather or birch bark. Quills were sometimes used to accent beadwork. To the modern untrained eye, quillwork looks much like beadwork done with long, cylindrical beads. Quillwork is harder to care for than beadwork, and the practice became less popular among the Sioux when beads became more widely available. You can still find some traditional examples of quillwork available, but they are generally family heirlooms or museum pieces. There are a few artisans who still practice quillwork in its traditional form, but few Sioux. If you are looking at modern examples of quillwork, note whether the quills have been glued in place, a modern shortcut, rather than woven.
ioux beadwork was typically stitched directly onto a garment. Occasionally they would bead leather strips which were then sewn on to garments. The Sioux used mostly symmetrical geometric designs featuring a central design to tie all elements together. They used white backgrounds and often outlined their designs in a dark blue or black to help them stand out. Many examples of beaded clothing still exist.
Buffalo hides were worn for warmth and in ceremonies. Designs were chosen for painting on the hides based on their meaning. Geometric designs were common. For example, a particular design might be used to promote healing or to tell the story of an event. Some tribes used a buffalo hide as a form of historical record, choosing a design to paint on the hide each year to represent the central event of the year.
In addition to making pottery, the Sioux also made parfleche, which were a cylindrical bag used to hold pemmican or other materials. Calumets were pipes carved from catlinite or pipestone.