Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Catch My Dreams -Featuring Dream Catchers made by Tiny Tipis

Dream Catchers are a popular part of Native American Art and culture; but, not many people know the history and legends surrounding them. Very few dream catchers sold in stores are "real" dream catchers these days as they are made from non-natural and processed materials. Let's take a step back and investigate the origins, legends, and traditional materials that led to the popular Native American themed decorations.
All Natural Dream Catcher with Beaded Green Leaves by Tiny Tipis

According to Wikipedia dream catchers originated with the Sioux Nation but spread among the other nations to represent many things. They have also been said to have originated from the Chippewa tribe (also Ojibwe or Annishnabe). Some tribes considered them to be a symbol of unity between peaceful nations while others thought of it as protection from night terrors. Still, present day popularity presents a challenge for the Native American dream catcher as certain people consider it too commercialized.

The legends surrounding dream catchers vary greatly from tribe to tribe. According to Soul Tones:

"An ancient Chippewa tradition
The dream net has been made
For many generations
Where spirit dreams have played

Hung above the cradle board
Or in the lodge up high
The dream net catches bad dreams
While good dreams slip on by

Bad dreams become entangled
Among the sinew thread
Good dreams slip through the center hole
While you dream upon your bed."

The First People website describes the Chippewa Legend as follows:

"A spider was quietly spinning his web in his own space. It was beside the sleeping space of Nokomis, the grandmother. Each day, Nokomis watched the spider at work, quietly spinning away. One day as she was watching him, her grandson came in. "Nokomis-iya!" he shouted, glancing at the spider. He stomped over to the spider, picked up a shoe and went to hit it.
"No-keegwa," the old lady whispered, "don't hurt him."
"Nokomis, why do you protect the spider?" asked the little boy.
The old lady smiled, but did not answer. When the boy left, the spider went to the old woman and thanked her for saving his life. He said to her, "For many days you have watched me spin and weave my web. You have admired my work. In return for saving my life, I will give you a gift."
He smiled his special spider smile and moved away, spinning as he went.
Soon the moon glistened on a magical silvery web moving gently in the window. "See how I spin?" he said. "See and learn, for each web will snare bad dreams. Only good dreams will go through the small hole. This is my gift to you. Use it so that only good dreams will be remembered. The bad dreams will become hopelessly entangled in the web."

Most tribes have similar variations of these legends. The reason for the name dream catcher is apparent in the legends as the spider's web catches only the bad dreams but lets the good dreams float on by. The heart-warming qualities that make people love them can be seen in the nurturing side that personifies the spider as a gracious and kind being.
When dream catchers originally started being made the Natives didn't have access to glass beads, metal hoops and the likes so they would use what nature provided. Willow branches were the most common since they were so easy to bend into a circle. The original dream catchers were all natural and as a result they broke down over time. Modern dream catchers use manufactured materials for cost reasons, to extend the life expectancy, and also because it is easier to produce a consistent product. These man made material products lack the feel of a real dream catcher even though they may be more visually appealing to the consumer in some cases.

Dream Catchers symbolize many different things to people. The legends that surround them and the meanings are almost as varied in history as they are today. Each person must find the meaning that fits them best for we are each as unique as the dream catchers that catch our dreams.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Start of Something Charitable

A disable dog in China is equipped with a cart to help him walk
There are many reasons people give to charity. Some people like to help others, some like to feel like they've done a good deed, and others do it to look impressive to those around them. I'm not sure there can be a good or bad reason to help a charity. As long as a person in need is being helped the purpose of giving that help is between the person giving it and the greater good they answer to.

Adopting a dog can save it from being euthanized
I like to help because I hope that should I ever fall on hard times someone would return the favor and give me a hand. We all hit low points at some time or another. It's impossible to get through life alone. This is why when I saw a discussion thread on Etsy about artist collaborating to donate art for a proposed charity auction I joined in. Even though this idea is in the beginning phases I see a spark there, a hope of helping others. I see an even better reason to make beautiful things than I previously had. I see hope for someone in need inside the creative genius of artists brought together for a cause.

The charity it goes to doesn't concern me much honestly. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see the money go to an animal rescue. Animals never try to be evil like people. Animals can't help themselves to the extent people can. The creatures of this earth that we have tamed and bred to be part of our families help us in our times of need. They give us love and friendship, never judge us, and sometimes they even save us when our life is on the line. How could man ever repay such a debt?

A Small Kitten in the Safe Hands of a Firefighter
Regardless though, I find the whole idea invigorating. Not only could multiple charities receive donations but local artist could be given an opportunity to gather together and create art in groups. I see the possibility of uniting people on so many levels! Is this not the first step toward the next phase of man kind? We all unite for a greater purpose, people come together to support each other and try to be better as a whole. There's always room for improvement! Let's never stop reaching for a better world.

Tiny Tipis thanks you for taking the time to read this article. We hope you have been inspired to help others. Contact us to see what other charity events we will be involved in.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

DIY Painting Tips for Tipi Tepee Teepee Owners

Canvas is the preferred choice for painting by artists today. Art Supply stores everywhere sell per-stretched canvases that have already been gessoed for you. These manufactured canvases are great for everyday practice or the traditional commissioned piece but what do you turn to when you want something that is unique to start? Tiny Tipis offers you an idea: Paint Your Own Tepee. Tiny Tipis offers custom paint and bead work but we understand that some people may want to take the art into their own hands. Thus we are handing out any of our knowledge for free so you can customize your own canvas teepee. The tips that follow in this article can be applied to Tiny Tepees or Large Teepees as well. 

When you start your painting adventure you will need to have the following items handy:
  • Paint Brushes of various sizes. For a softer line use synthetic bristles, for a more crisp and clear line use natural bristle.
  • A container of water. Make sure you use a container you don't care about in case you want to toss it afterwards.
  • Acrylic Paints in the colors you will be using. The choice of acrylic paint is important and will discussed further below.
  • An Acrylic Thinning Solution such a Flow Release, Liquitex, or anything comparable that you find at your local hobby store.
  • An old rag you can wet and dab with in case of spills or mistakes.
  • A board or hard surface you can use as a palate to mix your paints on.
  • A strong string, straight edge (ruler), drop cloth, and a pencil.

The type of paint you choose will effect the final product greatly. Two standards must be met for the paint to be as sturdy as possible when finished: It must be Acrylic and it must be Fluid. Fluid refers to water based and can be thinned with water but is not recommended as this changes the pigment content (making the colors less vibrant) and the ability of the paint to bind to the surface of the canvas. If you aren't sure by looking at the label then ask someone who works at the hobby store, they should be able to direct you to the correct paints.

Once you have gathered your supplies you are ready to decide what design you want to paint on your tipi. Stencils work great and are very easy to do. The more geometric the pattern the easier it will be as well. Decide if your tipi will be displayed standing up in a cone shape or laying flat in a display. If your teepee will be displayed flat then you can paint on it as you would a regular canvas. If you plan to set your teepee up after painting then you will need to consider the 3D nature of it. Here are a few tips on making simple designs for a standing tepee:
  • To paint horizontal stripes: Find the Center of the Tepee 2 inches above the Tie Flap. Anchor one end of your string here so that neither the tipi or string changes position. Find the point where the string meets the edge of where you want your stripe. Place the pencil at this point on the string and secure it by tying it in place or holding it firm with your fingers. Pull the pencil around the tipi in a semi circle where you want your stripe. Don't draw too dark or use a pen in case you mess up. Keep repeating this where you want the edge of a stripe to be until you have all your guide lines drawn.
  • To paint vertical stripes: Find the Center of the Teepee two inches above the Tie Flap. Mark this spot and ensure the tipi and mark won't move while you are drawing. Line one end of your straight edge up with the mark you made just above the center and the other end where you want the stripe to start at the base. This way the stripes will taper as they go toward the top creating the illusion of a taller Tipi.
  • To paint triangles along the base: Decide how many triangles you want around the bottom of the tipi. Divide the length of the hem by how many triangles you plan to paint and use this number to make the bottom edge of a stencil. The other two sides of the triangle will be equal to each other. Smaller triangle sides will create a shorter border around the base of the teepee while longer sides will make a taller border. When your get your stencil made lay it on the canvas and trace around it lightly over and over until you have the whole hem covered.
Now you are ready to paint! Use a drop cloth if you are doing this indoors on floors you like or gather clean rocks to keep the edges from blowing up if you are doing it outside. If you are painting a Tiny Tipis brand Tipi I would suggest indoors since they are small enough to run away from you with a good gust before they get staked down.

If you desire the paint to stay on the surface like it would with a traditional stretched canvas you will need to gesso the surface first. If you want the paint to soak into the canvas more then you won't need to worry about that.

Mix your paints according to the directions on the labels. Remember you can use water to make your acrylics thinner and soak in better but water will destroy the bonds of the paint quicker than product made specifically for that. The purpose of thinning is so that the paint soaks into the canvas more and also to reduce the chance of the paint cracking as it gets older or if you have to fold the tipi cover. If you plan to set your tipi up outdoors I highly recommend Fluid Acrylics By Golden Acrylics in conjunction with their brand of Flow Release. This will withstand the test of time and the elements better than anything else on the marker but they are pricey if you are on a budget.

If you make a mistake while painting quickly dip your rag into your bucket of water and dab the mistake. Don't rub! This will spread the paint around making your mistake even bigger! If you gessoed your canvas tipi cover first it will be a little easier to clean up any mistakes. Go slowly when painting close to the lines since a slight twitch of the hand can cause your perfectly smooth line to look jagged. The smoother your lines the more professional the painting will look.

When you are done painting make sure to let the Tipi Cover dry for at least 4 hours before moving it. If you move it before the paint dries fully you risk drips, smears, and areas of darker pigment where the paint pools.

   This informative article brought to you by Tiny Tipis LLC. Tiny Tipis is a small handmade company providing environmentally friendly products to help customers reduce their carbon footprint. We focus on using high quality materials with attention to detail and running our company as close to zero waste as we possibly can. All shipping materials are recyclable, compostable, and/or biodegradable. See more of what Tiny Tipis does for our planet at any of the links below:

 Thank you for being environmentally responsible!!!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Why Do I Make Tipis in a Series?

Lacing Pin Strip on a Tiny Tipi accented with Rose Petals
As an artist, seamstress, and tepee maker; I am inclined to find a special beauty in each thing that I create.  The artist in me strives to give a personality to each little tepee while the seamstress demands perfection in every seam. With teepees I decided to make them in a series much like a painter would make a series to show how they studied a subject from every angle. The resulting tipi cover is impressive.

What is a series?
     According to TheFreeDictionary.com a series is:
              1. a group or connected succession of similar or related things, usually arranged in order

 I define my series by pattern and material. I research the tipis of the tribe I chose and translate it into a functioning miniature version. I then use this teepee pattern to sew as many small tepees as I can from one batch of canvas.

I buy canvas according to quality, quantity, and price. Sometimes I buy as little as 5 yards and other times I buy much more. The amount of canvas isn't as important to me as the properties of it. One cut of fabric becomes a single series of tiny teepees. In this way each tepee becomes a work of art even when the canvas is blank.