Episode 10

Published on:

16th May 2024

Indigenous ancestral skills in Modern Hands with Joe Big Mountain

Growing up amidst the vibrant swirl of a powwow family, one can't help but be swept up in the creative current. That's precisely what happened to Joe Big Mountain, a Quill artist of Mohawk and Comanche heritage, who joins us to recount his fascinating journey into the art of porcupine quillwork. His story is not just about the personal revival of a painstaking craft, but also a heartwarming glimpse into how his heritage and family's artistic lineage played a pivotal role in shaping his path. We get intimate insights into the cultural significance of quillwork and how Joe is breathing new life into this ancient technique.

The conversation with Joe then navigates the historical and contemporary landscapes of quillwork in art. It's a celebration of tradition, where animal quills and hides become more than materials; they're a connection to a rich past. Joe elaborates on how the art form serves as a bridge between expressing individuality and preserving cultural legacy. He shares anecdotes on the rarity of private commissions, the impact of his craft on family and special occasions, and the delicate balance of staying true to timeless methods while allowing for artistic evolution.

In the final segment, we uncover the layers of inspiration behind Joe Big Mountain's work, from his grandmother's exquisite beadwork to his own trailblazing moments at New York Fashion Week with his brand Iron Horse Cool Work. We talk about the rigor of creating quillwork masterpieces, the familial bonds that support and challenge him, and the strategies he employs to keep his art form both fresh and faithful to its roots. Joe's tales are an open book to his creative world, offering wisdom to burgeoning artists and pulling back the curtain on the complex tapestry of a contemporary Native American artist's life.

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About the Podcast

Beyond the Art
The Stories that Bind Us
BEYOND THE ART is hosted by Cray Bauxmont-Flynn who strives to highlight a diversity of roles and voices across the Native American art world, from artists to museum directors and everyone in between.

About your host

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Jesse Ulrich