A work of art, and a collector’s artifact, as well. This life-size cradle board could actually be used to swaddle your cherished little one. However, it is really meant to be treasured for its authentic and handsome homage to a bygone era.
A historic reference book on Crow beadwork says, (cradleboards) “are among the most highly decorated objects in Crow culture…. Women took great pains in beading their cradleboards. These articles exemplify Crow beadwork at its best.”
And so it is with this contemporary cradleboard that follows the artist’s tribal heritage, accurately and beautifully.
Thousands of tiny beads decorate the white deerskin, including the lovely light blue background, historically favored by the Crow. Just below the top piece is a deerskin hood, to shelter the baby’s head from the elements.
The three beaded bands below the hood are meant to secure the baby under the arms, around the waist, and at the ankles. The bottom pouch is meant to protect the feet. Thin “ropes” of deerskin keep the beaded areas in place, across the little body.
The bold designs are traditional, and seen on historic examples, although each woman used them in her own way. That is true here, too.
The artist combined these geometric elements in her own pattern, while still keeping to recognizable Crow design: diamond shapes, the multi-colored bands that cross them, and smaller crosses.
The exact symbolism of these geometric elements is not known, but some thought the rectangles within the horizontal bands were a record of counting coup – striking an enemy – by the woman’s husband. The crosses, like those seen in southwestern tribal work, represent the stars.
Colors, too, are authentically traditional, especially from the reservation years, starting around the 1870’s, and onward: light blue, lavender, white – used mostly in outlines, as here – dark blue, red, yellow and green.
Beads of these colors are seen here, along with the red flannel that backs the beading, and forms richly hued borders.
This cradleboard may be contemporary, but the techniques, colors, and materials are absolutely true to Crow history. It represents the artist’s pride in her culture, her skill, and her artistry.
Hanging on your wall, it will provide a highly decorative and handsome link to the past, to be enjoyed far into the future. This cradleboard will bring esthetic, historic and documentary enjoyment to the collector who is lucky enough to own it.