Sunday, March 31, 2013
Hopi artisans carve cottonwoods into kachinas
Sun Mar 31, 2013 11:42 AM By Ron Dungan
Hopi kachina carving goes back to troubled times, to cultural shifts that took place a couple of centuries ago.
Carvers use a variety of methods, tools and paints — both traditional and contemporary — in creating the figures. Some use power tools, others stick with hand tools. Some use fur and feathers, others don’t. Although carvers approach their work differently, each piece begins with a cottonwood root.
The trees live along rivers, springs and washes on high plateaus and in stony passages throughout the Southwest. They put down deep roots and grow a thick layer of rough bark. They stand against floods and drought, through cold winters and hot summers, until they die and are washed away.
Some carvers gather their own roots. They walk dry riverbeds and washes after floods, watching for rattlesnakes. Other carvers are happy to leave that work to others.
“My wife and I used to get it from riverbeds,” said Arthur Holmes Jr., a contemporary-style carver from Prescott Valley, who learned from his father. “Now I have people who go and collect the wood.”
Gerry Quotskuyva, a contemporary carver who lives near Camp Verde, said he once got pretty excited about some roots he spotted. He grabbed a piece and stripped off the bark, his mind filled with possibilities, until he realized there were scorpions in the wood, and his thoughts snapped back to the moment.
Kachina dolls represent dancers who perform in Hopi ceremonies. The dancers carry messages for their people and are givers of life, said Tayron Polequaptewa, a carver who lives in Flagstaff. They instill discipline. They teach children how to behave. CLICK HERE