of the American Indian
3001 Central Street
Evanston, IL 60201
Keepsake: Porcupine Quillwork
Exhibit open until February 20, 2011
For centuries, Native peoples used porcupine quills for decoration, especially in the Woodlands and Plains regions. With their sharp, sturdy points, quills were used for sewing as early as 531 BCE in North America. Later, the length of the quill was dyed in vibrant colors and intricately applied as decoration. Decorate quillwork techniques evolved over the centuries, with Native artists applying quillwork to a wide range of objects. During the mid-1800s Native artists began sewing quillwork on small birch bark containers, an applique style that is still extremely popular.
Today, quillwork remains a highly respected art form that continues to grow as new artists master the techniques. "We each need...to do the best that we can in the art form," said master quillworker Yvonne Walker-Keshick (Little Traverse Band Odawa), "so that the next people coming up through the generations have something to strive for and try to do as well."
Visit Keepsake: Porcupine Quillwork today to learn more about the steps involved with gathering and preparing quills, see several of the most common quillwork techniques, and take a quillwork quiz.
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