SAULT STE. MARIE, ONT. – While most artists go to the local art supply store to buy their materials, Amber Waboose goes deep into the woods behind her home – and if she hasn’t been given a hedgehog recently , she also has to go find one of them.
Waboose’s designs using hedgehogs are eye-catching, intricate and detailed. When she decides to post some of her rare work for sale on her Etsy site, it is usually purchased in less than 20 minutes.
“Especially the traditional Ojibway floral designs, bees, birds or strawberry designs. I have sold my work all over Turtle Island and Australia [to] who appreciates twisted paper earrings, medallions, pins and bandages – I just haven’t made a hat yet,” said Waboose, from Batchewana First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., told CTV National News.
Her artwork includes traditional Ojibway designs with strawberries, flowers and animals around her, but she also draws inspiration from popular culture. Other installments feature designs from Star Wars, Marvel, Dragon Ball Z, and The Legend of Zelda.
She treats her artwork as a hobby and doesn’t want to take orders for fear one day it will look like a job, but at the same time she doesn’t keep her work and sell it to others. admire.
“I try not to hold anything back, but I am always thinking about what I can do next, how I can challenge myself more and how I can become a better artist. ,” Waboose said.
Waboose says she comes from a long family of artists and has been painting since she was a child. She only started making quills three years ago, after learning about her Ojibway language and culture through classes where local knowledge holders and elders would teach her how. work with a brush.
“One class I went to, the eldest brother had all the materials for making brushes and instructions on how to do it. She introduced it to me, and then I was so fascinated by the art and history of it, I started collecting all my own material,” she said.
Those materials include birch bark and stevia for her to walk in her backyard, deep in the woods, as well as often elusive quills.
“I am always on the lookout for a hedgehog in the street. When I find one, I pick it up on the street and bring it home, pick and clean the brushes by hand, I wash the brushes with warm soapy water and then when I’m done I dye them and then poop. Sort them by size. It usually takes me a day or two. The best time to harvest the brushes is late summer because if you do it too early there will be water in the brushes,” she says, adding that it is important to make sure the brushes dry properly so they don’t grow. any mold.
To color brush pens, Waboose has many ways to dye them, including using Kool-Aid. She hopes to one day learn how to make natural dyes.
Waboose says a piece of paper can use anywhere from 10 to 600 brushes and can take anywhere from five to 20 hours to make, depending on the size and amount of detail.
Lucia Laford, a family friend of Waboose and an indigenous artist and art educator, says that Waboose is “bringing the artwork back” as part of a larger renaissance. of the art form.
“She is keeping that tradition alive, and she is doing it in a wonderful way. I think it’s a lot of practice, a lot of work, and requires a lot of skill, and Amber is incredibly good at it. I’ve always been captivated by the bright colors she uses, it’s all very eye-catching and all of her designs are so intricate. A lot of people in the community admire her,” Laford said.
Laford’s late father – longtime Ojibway artist John Laford from Manitoulin Island – also inspired Waboose’s work along the way to include more painting techniques. He passed away last November.
“My father bought one of her paintings two weeks before he died, and he was very proud to have it. As he said… “Every native should pick up a brush or at least try to pick it up,” says Laford.
Waboose says she will continue to do her job writing letters and inspiring the next generation.
“Quillwork is an important part of the local culture,” she said
“This is one of the oldest art forms on Turtle Island, invented by the natives. It was more practiced at the time and when beads were introduced, brushes were not practiced as often. often, but now it’s being revived by a lot of young artists.”