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History Recreated with Fiber Twined Bags and Baskets
Indigenous Fiber Artist Vera Longtoe Sheehan Replicates Historical Pieces
Among indigenous plants of North America are several plant fiber species that can be harvested, their fibers pulled in long strands and twisted into cordage, then woven, twined or knotted into functional pieces, clothing, accessories, and works of art. Such is the tradition handed down by generations of members of Vera Longtoe Sheehan's family through her Abenaki heritage.
Vera Longtoe Sheehan is a Indigenous Vermont artist who preserves the tradition of her ancestors -- the last known Native American New England family making twined, plant-fiber creations. Her father taught her the proper ways to harvest and process plants to make cordage, and then to use that cordage to make her distinctive twined bags, baskets and textiles. Today Vera combines family tradition with a knowledge of Wabanaki culture to create her one of a kind twined art that is both contemporary and ancient at the same time. Each innovative handmade object takes hours, days, weeks or even months of complex weaving and knotting to complete. Vera is committed to teaching her two children to twine, so that this endangered art form endures.
More incredible in their re-creation are her pieces that are replicated from historical sketches of Native Americans of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Vera carefully studies archival documents, drawings and paintings and reproduces items that were worn or carried, into pieces we can see in full size, design and pattern, giving us a unique glimpse into the past, when Native Americans used these ancient techniques to create everything from the functional utilitarian object to the ornate piece of clothing, footwear, or special adornment. Some pieces have dyed cordage, while others are more plain or two-tone, but each piece has a unique design and character.
For almost twenty years Vera has combined her Indigenous Vermont heritage, her knowledge of regional history, and a passion for artistic creation, in offering programs for schools, and museums. Her twined bags, baskets and textiles reside in museum and private collections and can be seen in films and literature.
Vera's "Twined Bags & Baskets" and other twined items will be on display at Macdonell-Williamson House July 13 & 14 (noon to 5). An Ontario Heritage Site along the Ottawa River, it is just north of the 417 -- at exit #1 to Pointe Fortune and just east of Voyageur Provincial Park.
Vera will also give a lecture, demonstration and video presentation on her process and the history of her particular form of fiber arts. For information on attending this session, please send an email to housemw1817@
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