The Saultais artist brings the spiciness to life

In Sault Ste. Artist Marie is dedicated to keeping an ancient art form alive.

Amber Waboose of the Batchewana First Nation creates art using porcupine quills. She makes everything from boxes to earrings using traditional and contemporary designs.

Waboose says she has been doing art in one form or another since she was a child. However, unlike painting, one does not simply go to the nearest art store to buy porcupine quills. She says just finding the necessary quill supplies is a journey in itself.

“I find my quills by picking up roadkill porcupines, or sometimes I’m given a porcupine or quills are given to me,” Waboose said. “When I travel, I always look for porcupines to pick up.”

After the quills are collected, Waboose said they are washed and dyed different colors. She acknowledges that spiciness is not widely practiced, especially with readily available modern materials and supplies.

“When pearls were introduced, quills weren’t practiced as often,” she said. “But, now it’s being revitalized by a lot of young artists who are taking the time to practice it again.”

Jordan Kimewon, another local artist, says he’s recently taken up the heat. He points out that the art form is not without risks.

“I got stuck with the feather about 10 times, then once with the needle,” Kimewon said. “It was under my fingernail.”

Despite the pain of learning the spiciness, Kimewon says it’s a form of therapy for him. The two artists say it can take hundreds of feathers and many hours to complete a piece, depending on its size.

Although the two have sold some of their work, they say the effort is more about keeping the art form alive.

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