When we think of Lakota art or decorated animal robes from this area, we typically think of buffalo, deer, or elk, but the other day artist Kevin Fast Horse amazed us with his latest (and very unique) creation...his very first beaded Mountain Lion robe.
[Rose] So, this is special, because we're actually showing the first piece you've executed with a mountain lion hide…this is your first, your number 1. Twenty-five years from now we'll be celebrating your number 25 (Kevin just recently finished decorating his 25th wolf robe).
[Kevin Fast Horse] I started it (the mountain lion robe) May 1 and I finished it today (May 25).
[Rose] How many beads did you use?
[Kevin] There's probably around 35-40,000 beads on there.
[Rose] I just think that's awesome that you know that.
[Kevin] The Lakota people symbolized the mountain lion much like they did the wolf, so I approached it similar to how I decorate a wolf robe.
[Rose] (Note to the public) Keep in mind that as a Native American art gallery, when we use hides it is not without thought and consideration for our environment and how our people are going to feel about it, and then how our customers are going to feel about it…and (referring back to Kevin) that's great that you have integrity and think about it.
(Referring to a few new images on Kevin's robe) Oh I love those, Kev! That's a new design, isn't it? They depict the mountain lion…one's leaping and the other is running…Wow! I love those.
Were they something you've been thinking about for a long time, or was it you got the hide and then figured out what you wanted on there?
[Kevin] Mountain lions. I drew them, sketched them out (it took me several tries to get them just right)…but I finally got it so they, well, looked like mountain lions. Then I take the rough sketch and darken it in, tape it to my graph paper, put it on a sheet of glass, and then put a light behind it so I can transfer it into a beading pattern.
[Rose] Right, because you're trying to match it up with all the squares (and make it a logical shape) so you can execute it with nice, round, beveled beads.
In Audubon Society books, when you look at the tracks…you even got the little claw marks in there (this is typical of when the animal steps into something, there's always that distinctive claw mark).
[Kevin] A mountain lion also walks by placing his back foot into the mark left by his front.
[Rose] I didn't know that…I guess that's just smart. I've also heard they use their long tails as a counterbalance when they move.
[Kevin] Yeah, they can leap 14 feet from just a sitting position!
[Rose] Wow…if you consider a standard room, the ceiling is usually 10 feet high. Can you imagine something just leaping up to the ceiling?
[Rose] The deer dew claws on the robe…do these symbolize the animals the mountain lions normally hunt?
[Kevin] Yes, deer is their favorite, the mountain lion's preferred food.
The other thing about this robe is the borders…(by comparison) a wolf robe has about 10 feet of beaded border, this mountain lion robe has about 13 feet! They're wider down in the rump area…and because a wolf also has a long, slender face, it covers up more of the neck (when I bring down the face and sew it on), but a mountain lion on the other hand, has a smaller head, so that also made the border longer.
[Rose] (Referring to the beadwork down the middle of the robe) It all shows your classic balanced statement…you really do balance everything perfectly.
…and (pointing to the beads Kevin has used on the robe) these are the white heart beads, again (Kevin is well known for using this type of antique glass beads). The old stock white heart glass beads.
I also know you're also concerned about they way people are caring for your artwork, so you wouldn't want hang it in direct sunlight, over expose it to moisture (don't hang it in the bathroom or sauna)…is there anything else?
[Kevin] Yeah, don't put it in sunlight, don't get it wet, and hang it high so no one pulls on the tail or it gets caught on something.
[Rose] Well thanks Kevin…thanks for sharing this with us!