My trip to Alaska in 2008 was my first solo adventure. I went to see glaciers, totem poles and to get over my fear of flying so I could get to Europe the following year.
While I was there, one of the recurring images I saw on totem poles and jewelry was a bird with a disc in its mouth, a depiction of a First People’s tale called “Raven Steals The Sun.”
The story has several variants, but they all tell of a world of darkness, and of a chieftain who had three cedar treasure boxes containing the Sun, Moon and Stars. The trickster Raven, learning of the treasures and wanting to bring and end to the eternal darkness, shape-shifted into a child who begged to play with the boxes. Once they were in his hands, he turned himself back into a Raven, and taking the treasure boxes, flew up through the smoke hole of the chieftain’s longhouse and high up into the sky. The contents of the boxes spilled out, dividing the darkness into night and day, and bringing light into the human world.
My first full-bird hat – the Raven King – gave me enough confidence to try other dimensional pieces. The Firebird followed, and then the Crow King – my entry in The Met 500 Design Contest, sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in August 2019.
This new Raven came together pretty quickly, but the Sun proved problematic. Every time I tried to alter a Haida design (shown here) I ended up with a Sun that looked more like flower.
A friend handed me a rubber stamp that leaned towards Gothic, and after several hours of searching the internet for designs to meld with the rubber stamp, my hat took a turn in an entirely unexpected direction.
I liked the ‘tribal gothic’ sun so much that I decided to do all the applique in black leather (which I had stripped off a couch that was destined for the dump). Once I had the Sun in place, Raven decided it would emerge from the cuff, with its wings wrapping around the Sun, catching one of the Sun’s flares in its beak. I stylized the feather detail, to keep the focus on the Raven’s face. The cuff is a herringbone-patterned wool which mimics the chevrons of my embroidery on the wings.
And now I have a hat inspired by my first trip to Alaska, based on a First People’s legend, but with a distinctively Gothic twist. (I would go on to make these in several colors, but the red one remained my favorite.)