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Eastern Woodlands or Great Lakes, Native American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 746

Dating back centuries, quillwork is an intricate method of textile making by Native American women. Unique to Indigenous communities throughout North America, quilled items are highly regarded, demanding great skill and possessing a luminous quality enhanced by delicate stitches, elaborate compositions, and rich colors. Quillwork involves community aesthetic labor: porcupine or bird quills are first harvested and then cleaned, sorted, trimmed, and flattened for flexibility before being sewn onto animal hide, birchbark, or fabric by the artists. The items on display here exhibit four distinct techniques: plaiting, wrapping, folding, and layering. Geometric patterns require quills of various lengths and widths. Natural colors are achieved by boiling quills with plants, flowers, berries, or nuts, with nineteenth-century aniline dyes introducing more intense reds and blues.

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