Carrie Hill, Basketry

Basketry

When Carrie was pregnant with her first born daughter, Rain, she learned the art of making a sweet grass basket. She was eager become a new mother, a caretaker, and a life giver while learning from the matriarchs of her family.  Her Aunt’s house smelled of “splint, sweet grass, and Camel Turkish silvers.” These were her first few steps into womanhood.  The baskets are a piece of her heart and she filled it the strength and hope for a future that would hold her family close and a legacy that remained positive and rewarding for her children.

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Carrying on tradition

Carrie explained how every step of the basket making process involves her relatives. Her Uncle gets the splint and makes her mold cutters. “I like to keep it a family trade because it means more to me.” The other day her brother  offered to pay for her splint. “It feels good supporting one and other, there’s a comfort level in building each other up.”

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Still I Rise

The peace and calm that this creative process brings into her world Carrie describes as the  comfort zone that consists of a centering with no distractions from outside world. Her hands will bleed and nails will crack, but she keeps going, the image in her mind of the completed basket clear in her mind.   Occasionally a friend or my daughters will join in with their pottery at my kitchen table work station. I take comfort in only hearing the rhythm of our breathing while we work in silence.” Carrie said.

Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances. -Maya Angelo

Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances. Fairy Tale Dreams Photography

Passed down generationally, the artistry of basket making has provided many opportunities for Carrie to teach her skills and the cultural significance to audiences across Turtle Island.  Carrie credits her experience working at a cottage in Blue Mountain as the onset of many invitations to demonstrate throughout New York State and Canada. Her arms open to the family experiences that grow from the basket making trade.  She has traveled with her girls out to Victor, New York to sell baskets at the Ganondagan Arts, Music, and Dance festival. The girls would make their own collection of baskets and some pottery all year long and keep their profits. They learned about the hard work and reaping the reward from it.

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Weaving Pathways to Positivity

As Rain grew up with Carrie; she is now becoming a young lady with the same interest as her mother has in baskets. “She wants to make baskets now more than ever and that’s what it’s all about, showing my girls that they can have this gift for themselves as well.” said Carrie. This affirmation of passing on her legacy is rich with a bond and important teachings in their lives. Carrie looks away and as she speaks you can hear the time gone by in a single sentence. Rain is becoming a beautiful strong young lady just like her. We often value the youngest years of our children’s lives and lose sight of that as they grow into adults. These old and new memories of them making baskets will keep their bond strong throughout the years.

Rain

This lesson cannot be found in a state curriculum.

Her favorite part of the basket making is picking the sweet grass and teaching her daughters the trade. She was taught to give back to the earth if you’re taking something from it. It is a sacred act of respect to the Earth. “Every time I pick, I put tobacco down. That’s how I was taught.” Carrie said. She will take her girls out with a packed lunch and cover their bodies head to toe to avoid the bugs. “I ran out one time and wouldn’t go back the rest of the day because of a huge fricken garden spider that was right in my face!” Carried laughed.  The bright green color of the grass and tall blades are her shelter from any storm as she walks through fields gathering blades. “Even on the hot summer days we’re out there picking sweet grass in 80 degree weather, the smell is phenomenal.” With pain still fresh in her voice, Carrie shares, “I took my girls out to pick the day my Grandma passed away. She was everything to me. She called me her Carrie, and I was her favorite.”

the calm before the storm

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes its gone through to achieve that beauty.

She works hard to balancing her roles in life.  Focusing on her family came naturally and not surprisingly, she successfully held a career in education.  Years passed and this mother, wife, and professional looked around and thought to herself “Was this all I am?”  Carrie wanted something of her own.  All the women around her depended on these roles as their whole identity.  There was this creative voice inside her that longed to speak out.  Growing up she remembered her brother being extremely talented in his art and being praised for his talents in the community. She said “I didn’t want to wake up in 50 years…still working at the school with any regrets.”

For years she danced front and center, singing along to her Husband’s music during every show.  Hand in hand with their daughters, Carrie is the biggest supporter of her husband’s dreams. Full-time Basketry waited on the back burner for the “right time.”  She made a decision to leave her career at the school.  Slamming her hand on the table she looks at me and says with defiance, “I am gonna do what I am gonna do and you’re gonna love it!”

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There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you

Sharing her work with the public always feels personal, because she takes pride in her innovations. “The color palettes come to me in dreams or at random throughout the day; I am watching a show and it comes to me…Yes! Black and Gold foil leafs! Blue and lime green curls!” she exclaims. Carrie is changing her ideas and stands out among the crowd, her personality collides with divine creativity. Other accessories have been a wide brimmed hat and recently bracelets. She is willing to explore other designs such as purses or couture designer clothing. The collaboration with other local business interests her and her willingness to take chances leaves Carrie excited to begin.

A chill basket is more than an accessory it is a symbol that having courage and going after your dreams with your best intentions is a gift to the world. Carrie Hill is a Mohawk from Akwesasne Mohawk Territory and her business can be found on Instagram, Facebook, and on chillbaskets.com.

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Kit Thomas Art

art, artist, fashion, Native

Kit Thomas is a Mohawk from Akwesasne, she returned to her home town from Roanoke, Virginia. This is her story. Her biggest challenge was meeting her father for the first time. If she had met him when she was a teenager she probably “would have flipped him the bird”, Kit said laughing, finger in the air. Now, the time was right to connect with him. Her dad was “cool” with her in a sense that he accepts her just the way she is.

Weapon of Choice

Weapon of Choice

Who is Kit Thomas? A woman full of light and love. Determined to chase her artist passion and go with the flow attitude. She believes a higher power kept her going in life. “I’ve lived many different lives and rebuilt myself many times in the past 16 years.”

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.

Her first life began with a body transformation. In 2010 Kit was a smoker and heavy drinker and made the decision to get sober after her Aunt Corrine White passed away. A tattoo showcased on her forearm reads “Carpe Diem” in translation “seize the day”.

Strong women inspire nations.

Strong women inspire nations.

At the time of her transformation Kit was working a manager at a pet food store and doing her artwork around the clock. She wanted to take the business to a new level and was at the top of her skill. Kit was getting recognized by her photographer friends and included her in a photo shoot called “Raven Mocker”. This nude pictorial came at a great time considering she had new found confidence in herself. Renewed by shedding her weight, she also shed emotions. Her positive outlook on life and the beauty in it is felt by all that meet her.

Our bodies are the only thing we ever truly own.

Our bodies are the only thing we ever truly own.

She woke up one day and said she no longer wanted to do her 9-5 job. All she could think of was painting. Society will tell you to conform and will praise blue collar professions. Kit was breaking the rules and felt free. “People would ask me what I did for work and said ‘No, really? What is your real job?'” Her motivation came from her weight loss and feeling unstoppable.

It was time.

It was time.

Hunter Down was born. Her alter ego and drag show performer braved the stage for the very first time. A friend called her up and said “Hey, Kit I have one spot open for the drag show.” Challenge accepted! Kit is a self-proclaimed ham and does not shy away from the spotlight. Her alter ego Hunter was a sassy, confident, rough and rugged persona known for infamous performances as boy band heartthrobs from New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys. Less than a few months in, she was hosting the show.

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The Right Stuff, Baby.

What is Kit’s creative process? Described as a mania, her many ideas come to mind simultaneously. Then a calm sets in with fluid movements on the canvas with each brushstroke. She can leave all mistakes in front of her and work on top of them, fully immersing herself in artistic freedom. While working on a piece, Kit’s process mirrors lucid dreaming. She can live in that moment and easily return to it, with full control over the inspiration. It is in those moments where she feels at peace. She has become more confident and secure with her talent and her work reflects that love and light.

Kit is a traveler and educated from Pratt and Brooklyn colleges. She decided to discontinue her studies in graphic design. Up until that point she had validated those choices by not wanting to disappoint her family. Now she had reclaimed her life as an artist and Kit Thomas Art was born. She grew up with anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. Art was her creative outlet to soothe the difficult days. She speaks of being shipped around to different areas as she grew up. Kit’s Aunt Corrine provided the roots that Kit has returned home to Akwesasne to grow.

Kit is not a religious person but believes that something has been with her through all the struggles. Being “very spiritual with the universe” is how she describes herself. “I’ve been to all kinds of churches and even a Southern Baptist Church. I walked in and their clapping and telling everyone about their evils.” Being open minded, she gained awarenss of herself among the eclectic world religions.

“Love people and love what you do!”
The Kit Thomas mantra to life and art.

“People would look at me asking, ‘Are you for real? Is that real?’” Kit remains true to herself by not letting others knock her down. Being fulfilled by carrying out your passion is how she lives her life. This truly inspiring lifestyle is a testament to being a woman with a dream. “A lot of situations strengthen you, you rebuild your life many times,” says Kit.

Kit’s new found adventurous spirit included wrestling in pudding at a local dive bar. “I told myself if I had bathing suit in my car I would do it. I had just returned from a vacation to Myrtle Beach, bathing suit in tow. There was no backing out now.” Dancing to the beat of her own drum, Kit braves any conquest.

Kit explains, “There’s always people who want to stomp on your dreams and you just keep going.” Sobriety lifted a fog and with clear eyes she started writing her own blog on tumblr and freely shares her experiences with others. Her infectious personality is uplifting in a sense where you’re rooting for Kit to never dim her light.

Shine On.

Shine On

Kit lived in Virginia for 2 ½ years. During this time she credits life lessons learned about family and love. Her life there working at a co-op consisted of local hippies and crazies. “You know the conspiracy theory types.” Kit Laughs and explains “I would go around and round debating with a few of these folks.” After a heartbreak in Roanoke, she says there’s no hard feelings there and continues to move forward. That was when she decided it was time to return to Akwesasne.  One phone conversation later, her cousins Randa and Marla were on a mission. The women organized for three days to raise travel funds for the 12 hour drive.

Pack light

All you must hold onto, is you, is you, is you.

Ready to reclaim her life and return to the family and culture she once knew, Kit was grateful. Kit reminisces about days looking in on the longhouse socials and ceremonies. “I’d like to get back over there one day and see it again and understand my culture more. Now that I am in my community of Akwesasne I want to do good and feel good.”

Kit Thomas Art wants to explore textiles and mass production of a tee shirt line. She credits Facebook and Instagram for her followers and recognition. “I want to collaborate with global artists! This artist in Portland reached out to me and I am thrilled to be noticed by these inspirational people.” Kit wants to be known as more than Native artist. As a designer of custom canvas shoes, Fashion is within her arsenal.

It's hard to stop someone who never gives up.

It’s hard to stop someone who never gives up.

Long gone are the days of painted “Emo girls,” with choppy hair and an empty face.  Now her work has progressed along with her self-worth as a bright vibrant colorful painting that evokes a feeling of woman who stands in her own light.

Akwesasne welcomes you and your talent.

Welcome home Kit.

Author: Jenna Herne-House of Hawi