Woman in glasses and a yellow cardigan smiles.
Former CreativeGround Website Administrator

November is Native American Heritage Month, and in honor of this month-long celebration of the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans, CreativeGround spoke with Julia Marden (Aquinnah Wampanoag) about her internationally known artistry. Read on to learn more about her various art forms, her influences, and where her work is currently being shown.

CG: When did you begin to create traditional art, such as your twined basketry, dolls, and paintings? Who taught you?
JM: I learned twining and traditional painting about 24 years ago when I worked at the Wampanoag Indian Program at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum that historically depicts the lives of the Wampanoag people and the English settlers during the 17th century. All staff who work at the Wampanoag homesite are Native, and learn and share the traditional arts. The knowledge and experience I gained there is priceless and I’m grateful for what I’ve learned. Twining bags and baskets out of natural materials (milkweed, dogbane and false nettle) was nearly a lost art because it’s such a time consuming process; after colonization, Native life changed dramatically and there was no time and no room for twining. I’m thankful that it’s been brought back and happy that I’m able to teach others (I’ve been teaching since I learned myself), helping to keep the art form alive for the communities and passing it along to newer generations.

CG: Did moving to Vermont and into a new artistic community change or influence the way you created or produced some of your art? Did you pick up any influences from other Native American Artists or non-Native American Artists in the region?
JM: I would say yes and no. In the sense of having a house of my own, having the space and feeling settled – that helps me to create art. It’s a very comfortable place and very conducive to producing art. Although the area is a bit isolated, I have Abenaki and other Native friends in the area, but I wouldn’t say that moving here has influenced my traditional art – the tradition is the same and I bring my tradition wherever I go.

Thinking a little bit more regionally, however, the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner, New Hampshire is about an hour and half away and they’ve been a great supporter of my art. One of the last baskets I made was specifically for an art show there and I’ve been a part of three or four of their temporary exhibits.

CG: Your work has been shown all over New England. What would you say is your favorite exhibit at which your work was displayed?
JM: There are a few, but I would have to say the Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Mashantucket, CT. I’ve been a part of that museum since the beginning, before it opened to the public – it’s an incredible museum and it has been a wonderful experience working with them. Overall they have been my biggest supporter and more of my work is exhibited there than anywhere else. I’ve been a part of both temporary and permanent exhibits there, my work is in the re-created Pequot village, and I’m a part of their Toolmaking film. I was also a part of the Native New England Now exhibit in the fall of 2013, put together in collaboration with NEFA. I can’t help but have pride in seeing my work at these museums or any other museum, it’s always such an honor.

CG: What do you think is the value of being listed on CreativeGround?
JM: The exposure itself is a benefit of having a profile on CreativeGround and the site is a great resource in general. It’s also nice to have a designation specifically for Native American artists in New England, it’s a good way for folks searching for a Native artist to be able to find one.

CG: Is your work currently being shown anywhere that you’d like us to know about?
JM: My work was just a part of a temporary exhibit that recently ended at Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum called Protection and Warmth that included eastern woodlands regalia/clothing from Native artists in the area. Additionally I have pieces at the Tantaquidgeon Indian Museum in Uncasville, CT; the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, The Clan of the Hawk’s Looking Glass Museum in Brownington, VT, and the Robbins Museum of Archaeology in Middleborough, MA.

I also have a lot of my work, along with the work of other Native American artists at my shop called Bluejays Visions, located in South Ryegate, VT. The store will be open until Christmas and will re-open in May.

Thank you to Julia for taking the time to answer some questions about her artistry.  Stay tuned for our next "On the CreativeGround" blog and take a look at our previous blogs here.

Images: (top) Julia and Katy Marden by Christopher Peters, (bottom) Cradleboard, 2007. Pine, twine, brass, deer hair (MPMRC collection) by Doug Currie.