Despite all appearances to the contrary—at first glance, anyway—no animals were harmed in the making of these ferocious headdresses. Rather, artist Erin Shaw uses found materials like twigs, bark, and moss, along with vegetable-dyed wool roving, to craft her headpieces as a way of connecting with Ma Nature. Although Shaw’s precise genealogy is a mystery to her, she’s always felt an affinity to Native American traditions. The headdress is customarily worn by menfolk as a mark of honor, but Shaw invokes its symbolism to celebrate the idea of “women warriors in a modern-day ‘tribe,'” she tells Ecouterre.
A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where she majored in fibers, Shaw works her materials into free-form sculptures. Using a four-pronged felting needle, she punches the fibers into a tree-like shape before incorporating her forest bounty. Sometimes the pieces start off as free-form knit or crochet assemblages, which she then embellishes with beads.
Shaw invokes the headdress’s symbolism to celebrate “women warriors in a modern-day ‘tribe.’
Despite the touchy subject of cultural appropriation, Shaw’s approach to creating the headdresses comes from a place of respect. “In particular, I wanted to reference an important and significant part of this culture,” she says. “The headdresses were only worn by distinguished warriors and they were usually only worn at special ceremonies or during war. The women of the tribe were responsible in most cases to make all the regallia, while each element of the headdresses was significant in its meaning.”
The motif of the tree (“family tree, roots, time”) is a recurring theme throughout her work. By combining what the earth has given her and the skills she’s honed through the years, Shaw’s faux, wearable menagerie spans time, space, and cultures.
[Via Lost at E Minor]