Paul St John, Mohawk works in so many mediums that it is impossible to categorize him as a "basketmaker" or a "beadworker" or a "dollmaker". Although he is all three, his work also includes moccasins, medicine bags of all description, porcupine quill work on leather and birchbark, painted clothing (think painted parfleche or painting on the inside of buffalo robes), moosehair and porcupine quill tufting, cradleboards, jewelry and there is more.
3 photographs of items by Paul St John, Mohawk & a picture of Paul and a friend.
- Traditionally dressed MicMac woman doll - C/1750-1800s Sold see similar Maliseet doll on this website
- Young girl's beaded moccasins - Leather from Sipayik, Passamaquoddy reservation Available at http://stores.ebay.com/AMERICAN-NATIVE-downeast
- Quilled Hummingbirds on birchbark handkerchief box - Available on this website
PHOTOS ABOVE: Please click on photograph to view entire picture
Paul St John is enrolled as a Mohawk, his father's tribe. His mother is Passamaquoddy, Maliseet & MicMac. He grew up near his father's Mohawk homeland in NY state and then moved to Maine to be closer to relatives on his mother's side. He tells me he started doing Native crafts when he was five years old, he did some beading then. He has been selling his crafts for thirty years. Paul mentioned he does not do ash baskets as he feels there are enough Wabanaki people making them, he can make them but prefers to concentrate his efforts on crafts less practiced today. An example is Paul's porcupine quill work. He not only makes the traditional quill work design on birchbark but also does flattened and embroidered porcupine quill work on leather - these techniques are traditional also but not commonly used today.
Paul's deep connection to his family and his heritage are quite evident when I talk with him. He tells me he has used an old family photograph to make a doll with traditional MicMac clothing - making the doll's clothes as similar to those in the photo as he can. He knows so much about various crafts and techniques used to make them, often telling me "they used to make this differently, so I am doing it the old way". Paul is committed to using traditional techniques and materials, he knows not only how to make traditional items but also knows how they were used and how to preserve them. - An example of this is a traditional basketry hat made with sweetgrass which Paul tells me his Passamaquoddy ancestors used to use when picking the sweetgrass in the tidal marshes to protect themselves from the hot sun. He also knows old tales and legends and has been generous with his time in sharing a few with me.
When we speak Paul often tells me of a project he is working on. He tells me he does so many types of crafts and items so he won't become bored with doing the same thing over and over. Recent works in progress Paul has described to me include a woman's neck knife sheath with porcupine quill embroidery and a birchbark cradleboard with porcupine quill decoration and a leather "baby doll". I hope to see these and perhaps be able to offer them for sale soon.
His family has been involved in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation and Paul grew up with various wild "pets", he mentioned fox, porcupine, raccoon and a pair of fisher cubs. His lifelong familiarity with wild creatures can be seen in the realistic way he depicts them on his quill/sweetgrass baskets and other birch bark items.