A traditional birch bark hat - made with traditional materials all of which were used prior to European contact. - This hat by Gina Brooks, Maliseet artist is one that requires much skill, precision and a great knowledge of the materials used to make it. The hat is made of birch bark with traditional scrape work etchings making traditional designs. There is spruce root used to bind the edges and wrap the brim to the crown and the top of the crown to the sides. There is a bent split twig at the outer edge of the brim, at the joining of the crown to the brim and a split spruce root at the joining of the crown top to the crown sides. This also has 2 small turkey feathers tied to the back seam of the crown with a smoked moosehide strip that is wrapped and tied to the feather quills.
The hat brim is 12" in diameter, the opening of the crown is 7.5" in diameter (circumference 23.56" - large size) and the hat is 5.25" high.
Scrape work, sometimes called "etching" is made by painstakingly scraping off the top layer of bark to show the contrasting layer below. This is carefully done by the artist to make the design or picture. The designs here are traditional yet rendered in a contemporary style that is so typical "Gina Brooks". There are double curve motifs, trifoliate designs atop triangular designs.
To make this hat Gina needed to know when and where to harvest the birch bark, spruce roots and what trees from which to harvest the twigs to be split. She had to gather these in the right season or the hat would not be sturdy enough, might split, the shrinkage/drying of one part or another might warp the rest of the hat which did not shrink or not at the same rate. Gina then needed to know how long to soak each of these and how to split the twigs and spruce root. Gina was a federal conservation officer in Canada learning in a new way about the land, the forest and its inhabitants.
Gina Brooks, Maliseet has lived in Princeton Maine but is from the St Mary's First Nation, New Brunswick, Canada. In an interview Gina said "My life is informed by Wabanaki traditional knowledge. My art is inspired by my people, our homeland and things that have historical significance and spiritual depth, which I attempt to communicate in my art. Teach the world “Wǝliwen skitkǝmikw ciw psiw-ǝte keke”– to give thanks to the earth for everything it gives. " Gina's life size artwork, along with that of David Moses Bridges (d) illustrates the framework for the permanent core exhibit 'People of the First Light,' at the Abbe Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian, in Bar Harbor Maine. Her work has been featured in multiple art galleries and museum exhibits in Canada and the USA. She works in many art forms, birch bark, pen and ink, acrylic paint, ash baskets, quillwork, moosehair embroidery, and countless more.