Menominee artist, Skirt, late 1800s. Wool and silk ribbon; 56 x 29 in. Denver Art Museum: Native Arts acquisition fund, 1938.23
length: 56 in, 142.2400 cm; width: 29 in, 73.6600 cm
Indigenous Arts of North America
Prior to the French Revolution in the late 1700s, upper-class women in Europe wore expensive silk clothing that advertised their wealth. The revolution made such public excess extremely unpopular, so silk manufacturers looked to the Americas to sell their surpluses.
Artists in the Great Lakes created an entirely new decorative technique from the colorful silk ribbons exported across the Atlantic. They cut, folded, and layered multiple ribbons together and then carefully stitched them to wool fabric, inventing what we now call ribbonwork. Curvilinear patterns based on plants and flowers are common motifs.
Milwaukee Public Museum, 1920-1938; Denver Art Museum, 1938.
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