American Native Arts and Antiques

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Smoking Rabbit; quill work, scrape work on birchbark


An important work by Paul St John (registered Mohawk, his father's tribe & Passamaquoddy/Maliseet/MicMac - his mother's heritage). Here Paul has used two traditional techniques to decorate this oval birch bark box, porcupine quillwork and bark scraping (etching). The box lid features a quillwork rabbit smoking a pipe. There is a Passamaquoddy double curve design on both sides of the box in green and red dyed porcupine quill. On the lid and box sides is a vine with rounded oval leaves that encircles the quill designs.

The use of quills and birchbark scrapework/etching on the same piece is unusual. The rabbit with a pipe is a motif often used by the famous Passamaquoddy barkworker, Tomah Joseph, (b 1837-d 1914). This pipe smoking rabbit illustrates a legend, where a rabbit studied "m'teoulin" and became a shaman. This rabbit is featured on many works by Tomah Joseph (one pictured here). And the late David Moses Bridges, Passamaquoddy birch bark worker, canoe maker and historian also used the pipe smoking rabbit on several of his pieces.

This oval box is 6.25" long, 4.75" at deepest, and 4" high. Paul used tidal sweetgrass to bind the bottom rim of this piece as well as at the top where the basket lid overhang affixes to the top of the lid. Last photo is of a Tomah Joseph birch bark piece with a scrape/etched smoking rabbit design.

Beautiful piece illustrating part of Paul's heritage.

Smoking Rabbit/birchbark -open
Smoking Rabbit/birchbark
Smoking Rabbit/birchbark - Close up
Smoking Rabbit/birchbark -Tomah Joe
Weight: 12 oz