Bonnie Newsom Translucent Birch Bark Biting
Bonnie Newsom is one of only a few Native American artists practicing the art of birch bark biting. This bark biting is thin enough to let light through It is sandwiched between two sheets of glass; when hung in a window, the bark will glow when the sun shines through it. Scroll down the page to read more about birch bark biting.
Frame is 5 in. x 5 in.; visible bark is 2 5/8 in. x 2 5/8in.
Bonnie Newsom, president of Nutalket Jewelry, writes about birch bark bitings:
“Birch bark transparencies are created using the ancient technique of biting birch bark. It is an art form that few people practice today. Aboriginal people living in birch-rich regions practiced this artistic medium as a way to create patterns for beadwork and other types of material culture. The technique involves stripping the bark to a paper thin form, folding it, and biting the bark to create transparent desings in the bark. these designs are visible when illuminated by sunlight or firelight, or they can be seen when accented with wood ash.
“In the early 20th century, anthropologist Frank Speck observed Penobscots biting birch bark as a fireside pastime. I was introduced to this art form by a Penobscot elder several years ago and have worked to develop my biting skills over the last few years. I never force a design on the bark. I choose to let its designs emerge unrestricted. The bark inspires me because no matter how much you ‘bruise’ it, birch bark always responds selflessly with a unique and gracious gift of beauty.”