The Natural World of Olive Fell
One of my favorite pieces is heading to its new home today, thankfully in Jackson (where maybe I can visit it). It’s not one of the knock-your-socks off rarities that Cayuse has a reputation for finding, but it encapsulates the essence of western Wyoming. The piece is called “Wading Moose”, an etching by Olive Fell.
This particular etching is rather hard to find, but Olive Fell, who died in 1980, is under-appreciated, making common works less painful to collect.
Fell’s early years were rumored to have been hard ones, with an abusive father. Not much is known, but her mother remarried after moving to Cody, Wyoming. Fell studied at the Art Institute of Chicago in the late ‘teens, where we have heard that she was roommates with Georgia O’Keefe and apparently got to know John Steauart Curry. She had a brief and unsuccessful marriage, after which she took up living on her own on an 1800 acre ranch called the Four Bear. It was this immersion in the natural world that really seemed to feed her art. She won many awards for printmaking, including one for this etching called Fenced Sagebrush.
Olive Fell seems to have developed a deep sense of time and space in her isolation. Her work ranged from tourist souvenirs sold in many of the National Parks (including Yellowstone, of course) to downright metaphysical, with a little mysticism thrown in for good measure. We have heard that she made many of her own prints. In the later years, Fell painted romanticized Native American children and created her “Fuzzy Bears” sold overwhelmingly to tourists.
But it is the work inspired by the natural world that really grabs you and takes hold. This is someone who knew her subjects. You get the sense that she just watched silently for hours while creatures got on with their lives around her. Elk, bears, moose, ducks, antelope, horses, deer, even flowers…I’m still discovering wonderful images preserved by Olive Fell. And the backstory, the knowledge that she really GOT it, lends depth to the work and makes it that much more enjoyable.
“Spring – Yellowstone Park” One of a series of four, covering four seasons in bears’ lives. This one is the most common – the other three are very hard to find.
More of Olive Fell’s work can be seen here.
Dec 11, 2012
Limited Jack Walker Inventory
We have only four items from Jack Walker in our display case, but as you know his work is wildly popular and makes wonderful gifts. While contractual obligations don’t allow us post the items on our website, we thought we’d let you know through the blog that we have these available for purchase. They include:
- Two braided leather bracelets with ingot silver clasps. One fits a size 7 1/4″ wrist, the other fits a 7 1/2″ wrist. $250/ea
- One linked ID bracelet with ingot silver panel, links, and clasp. It fits a 7 1/4″ wrist. $300.
- One ingot silver flower charm, on an adjustable leather lanyard with ingot clasp. $210.
Jack Walker Ingot Silver and Leather
Call us at 307-739-1940 to secure any of these pieces.
Dec 5, 2012
New Gift Galleries!
We’ve created a way for you to find items in your price range. Simply select from Great Gifts 1 to 5 on the left side of any page. Just for grins we included our version of the Neiman Marcus catalog….one-of-a-kind gifts that will surely thrill the recipient. We’re adding to these daily, so keep checking back, or call us if you need some help with ideas…
A Rare Stone Lithograph Circa 1917
Always glad to hear from you!
Jul 18, 2012
Southern Plains Silver
The Southern Plains group of Native Americans includes Southern Cheyenne, Kiowa, Arapaho, Caddo, Comanche and some other smaller groups. An argument can also be made that the Osage are in this group, although they are often combined into the Prairie people. The Southern Plains groups were generally adept horsemen, and strong enough to survive through most of the government’s push to subjugate them. This is perhaps because they encountered Spaniards long before, who also tried to contain them – they learned a thing or two. But they also picked up some new materials and techniques from the Spaniards. One of these was the ability to work metal. Quickly, the metal ornamentation became a signature of Southern Plains culture: earrings and arm bands, hair ornaments, belts, bridles, and pectoral necklaces can be seen on the Southern Plains people more than on any other except the Navajo (also exposed to metalsmithing due to close proximity to Spanish conquerors). The metal was plentiful – pioneers were casting off extra weight on their wagons, so cooking pots, containers, and other items could be found laying along the trails. The metal was also obtained through raids on the wagons. And, it could be acquired in trade for items these travelers really needed. Largely it was nickel silver, dubbed “German Silver” because of its production in Germany. Sometimes it had a pattern on it; other times, a chisel was used to create a pattern using a zig-zag process called rocker engraving. Eventually, enterprising anglo manufacturers and traders supplied pre-decorated pieces to be incorporated into the work.
Our show includes examples of Southern Plains work, including two hair drops (worn by men), and a bridle. These are hard to find and are highly collectible. We’ve also included examples of earlier coin silver items made by anglo silversmiths. The trade cross and the gorget were made specifically to trade to Native Americans in exchange for food or furs. The Hudson Bay Company trappers and the Astorians would routinely carry these items with them as currency, along with glass beads and other exotic goods. These earlier pieces certainly influenced the desire among Native Americans to adorn themselves in metal since it was not easily obtained.
Cheyenne Chief Little Robe, showing a large cross with crescents. Crescents were a legacy of the North African Moors, who conquered the Spaniards and influenced Spanish design. The Southern Plains and Navajo adopted some of the same symbology.
Expedited Shipping through December 22nd
As the gift giving season gets closer, we wanted to let you know a few things about getting your items fast. You can select expedited shipping during checkout to make sure you get your products. Please be aware that our UPS cutoff is 3pm, and in order to give us enough time to pack your items, you should make a purchase by 2pm MST, Thursday, December 22nd. If UPS guarantees arrival on Friday (sometimes they don’t, right before Christmas), you will receive your purchases in time for Christmas. We can also send items through other carriers. Just contact us before making your purchase to discuss shipping options. We’re happy to help!
New Ways to Browse Our Collection
We’ve just added the ability to look at your search results or category selection in several different ways. You can pick the view that suits your preference. On the right hand side of the page near the top is a box to select a view. You can choose Grid, which shows results in thumbnails. You can also select two different list formats, Simple, and Expanded. These give you a no-nonsense top to bottom list of items. You can still click on the item or photograph for the full view of all photos and description, and then go back to your group list. Try it now on our vintage Native American jewelry group.
Some Thoughts on Giving During the Holidays
I heard an editorial the other day by Adam Frank on NPR. He called it “Pepper Spraying the Holidays”, and in it he wondered if the emphasis on producing more, and buying more, was so ingrained in our psyches now, that we are unable to change. Lest you think he’s just another bleeding heart, however, he offers this insight: “I like my stuff as much as the next guy. I embrace the technologies I use and the capacities for their production. From a solidly made rake to a brilliantly designed app, making things is what we do. That being said, we desperately need to figure out if a balance can exist between how much we take (from the planet) and what we make.” This struck a chord.
This buffalo inkwell and pen tray only says it was made in Austria. Who made it? What informed his or her impression of American Bison? How did it get to this country?
I left a solid job marketing high tech electronic equipment due to similar misgivings. It was not lost on me, that the company I worked for was in the business of producing “better” things so that the last thing you bought from them was thrown in the trash. What I do now is so much more rewarding, and it’s the original Green industry. I know there are some folks out there who just don’t “get” antiques. Most of us, though, find the examination of a vintage item thought provoking, wondering about the path that brought it to the here and now. I pretty much always learn something new from something old. Sometimes an object reminds us of someone we love, who may be gone, but it evokes a fresh memory that otherwise may have gone unremembered. Sometimes a piece looks like it was tailor made for someone we know, even though it’s gone through other hands before now. My favorite days at Cayuse Western Americana are when a client comes in, looks around, and then something triggers about one piece in particular. It’s usually very spontaneous and visceral, and that’s when I know I’ve done my job well. The piece will sell itself without any intervention from me, simply because it speaks to the client. I can’t remember the last time a flat screen tv made me react that way (although GM* Tom seems to have had heart palpitations when he saw “the one”). Among Mr. Frank’s suggestions for this season’s gifts was “see if you can find things that will last, things that are made really well”. We suggest that you take this search to thrift stores, consignment shops, high end antique galleries (shameless plug), Craig’s list, Ebay, garage sales – whatever floats your boat. I can guarantee that as you sift through the millions of items consumers have valued in the past, you will find something worthy of being loved yet again. It will be made really well. It will last. And you’ll be a good citizen of the planet. Happy Hunting! *Gallery Manager Tom You can read Adam Frank’s full essay here.
Happy Holidays from everyone here at Cayuse Western Americana!
We appreciate you taking the time to check out our new website, feel free to look around, and make sure to contact us if you have any questions!