Reprinted by permission of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association/ Muzzle Blasts magazine.
For information on the NMLRA please visit the website at www.nmlra.org.
Much has been written in the past about Shawn Webster, but in recent years there have been some changes although much remains the same in the life of this talented artist and enthusiast of early American lifestyle. Shawn still lives in the mountains of Utah, near Cedar City, still hunts with a muzzleloader, fishes and traps in the 18th and19th century manner following in the shadows of Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith and Joe Meek. He still tans all of his own hides for use in his work using both the bark and brain tanning methods. But there have been some exciting new developments for Shawn. Among other things, he has authored a chapter on 19th century beaver trapping in the Book of Buckskinning VIII, but even more ambitiously, he has published a book titled In The Image of A. J. Miller, a full color volume uniquely showcasing the art of Alfred Jacob Miller and Shawn’s recreations of the clothing shown in those paintings.
In 1837 Baltimore artist Alfred Jacob Miller went west with an expedition headed up by the famed Scotsman, Sir William Drummond Stewart. Miller was to chronicle the trip in sketches for Stewart in order to later work his sketches into finished paintings. Miller attended the ’37 rendezvous in the Rocky Mountains and was the only artist to ever depict one of these events. During this journey Miller did a large number of drawings and paintings of the mountain men, Indians, and geographic locales he encountered. Shawn has taken a selection of Miller’s art, had well known artist frontier artist Lee Teter duplicate these works, and then faithfully recreated the clothing and accessories shown in the paintings. He has placed Miller’s subject on one page and a photo of his reproductions duplicating the painting on the facing page for comparison. It is a very interesting concept, and most useful to anyone depicting this period of frontier history.
Notably, Shawn’ quillwork was included in a successful major museum exhibit, The Art of the American Frontier at the Owensboro Museum of Art (Owensboro, Kentucky), curated by Russell Young. This unique and cutting edge exhibit featured both antique art and outstanding works by 41 of today’s leading contemporary makers.
The quality of his work steadily improves as he faithfully reproduces the techniques passed down by generations of quillworkers. But also as a creative artist, he develops new styles which express his own ideas, all the while being cognizant to preserve the traditions of the past. Shawn is well known for his exquisite quillwork and beautifully brain tanned hides, though he is interested in all forms of early American art. He is constantly seeking out new formats through which to express his art.
One of the most demanding of these new works of art was inspired by renowned frontier artist H. David Wright. David commissioned Shawn to make a quilled coat in the style of 19th century Metis coats. Says Wright, “We wanted this to be an exceptional work of art, so Shawn and I researched Metis coats in collections throughout North America and Europe. I photographed many coats for construction techniques and quill designs and we then selected what we felt was the best of the best. Shawn beautifully incorporated all our research into a fine, beautiful work of art.”
This coat was featured in the Owensboro Museum exhibit catalog with a full page color photo. It is also shown in this article. Beautifully quilled and made from six brain tanned hides smoked in two colors, the coat is truly a work of art. David has been seen wearing this fabulous coat at his gallery shows and events throughout the country. As a result, Shawn’s reputation continues to grow in many areas of the art world. According to Shawn, he is in the process of finishing another of these coats, the first one to be offered on the open market.
Several years ago, Wright also commissioned him to make a copy of an 18th century Huron pouch that is in the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, Canada. Wright had photographed the pouch in 1987 in preparation for article he wrote on American Indian quilled art. He made detailed photographs and obtained information about the construction techniques used in the bag by examining the original during a trip to the museum (then known as the Museum of Man). Much to Wright’s chagrin, after he commissioned Shawn to duplicate the pouch, he later learned that the pouch contained moosehair embroidery, which he had misinterpreted as quillwork. However, because Shawn’s quilling techniques are so finite, the quilled bag looks to be an exact duplicate of the original.
Wright reflected that… “Shawn took the information I furnished him and faithfully reproduced it in quillwork. Because moosehair embroidery is sometimes difficult to identify from fine quillwork, I’m the one who misinterpreted the original art. Shawn did a fine job with his work and it’s almost impossible to tell the difference.” The pouch is featured in this article.
Since pouches are one of the most practical canvases on which Native Americans placed their designs, it follows that when writing an article on an artist working in this medium, those would be one of the most common forms to illustrate. As such, we have chosen three to be illustrated here: the Huron pouch previously mentioned; a copy of an 18th century Ottawa pouch; and one with a Shawnee design. The Ottawa pouch features the “underwater panther” design. This motif holds great spiritual meaning for Native Americans and thus many contemporary quillworkers are reluctant to recreate it. This pouch is a prime example of the work Shawn does in that it is true to its heritage, and is beautifully aged to give it that eye appeal so liked by re-enactors as well as collectors. Additionally, it is constructed and quilled in such a way as to be completely compatible with hard use. The strap is backed and the bag is lined with hand-woven linen. It is, in all ways, serviceable while maintaining that authentic, period look – a must for those living history buffs who use these works in the field.
The third pouch we have chosen is what is generally accepted as a Shawnee design. Again, while faithfully and painstakingly maintaining authentic design our artist has recreated a product that will provide service for those who wish to use it as part of their persona in re-enacting or present a focal point for any collection of Native American art. The original which influenced this design is in a museum in Germany.
Of equal importance in items of decoration to early Native Americans was the knife sheath. Whether it be made for the larger belt knife or what is termed a “neck knife”, these sheaths provided an ideal platform on which to display their art. The neck knife sheath pictured next to the Shawnee bag is of the classic Central Great Lakes design.
The larger belt knife sheath is of Huron influence but is freely designed by Shawn. It is a belt size, 9” sheath with a stiff bark tanned liner covered with brain tan deerskin. All of the quills Shawn uses in his work are dyed with natural dyes. The knife is an English style trade knife hand-made by well known Crossville, Tennessee knife maker Tim Ridge. (More about Tim in a later article.)
Shawn is active in support of organizations that share his interests: The National Muzzleloading Rifle Association, The Contemporary Longrifle Association, the American Mountain Men and the National Rifle Association.
Shawn Webster’s art continues to improve as he researches his subjects and applies his knowledge to his art form. He is always excited about taking on new challenges and is willing to talk about any project if you will call him at (435) 586-2326 or contact him at:
172 Wind Song Way
Adolphus, KY 42120
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Jones began his interest in living history in 1960 with Ralph Marcum and Randy Cochran, he was a charter member of the Kentucky Corps of Longrifles and began attending Friendship in 1959. His interest in contemporary makers started in the 1970’s when Dr. Glen Marsh introduced him to the work of Gary Birch and Jud Brennan. In conjunction with David Wright he wrote the “From the Hands of Master Craftsman” articles for Muzzleloader magazine and has been writing for Muzzle Blasts.
The 14th Annual Contemporary Longrifle Association Show And Live Auction
by guest author, T.C. Albert
The central theme of this year’s upcoming live auction held during the 14th Annual Contemporary Longrifle Show is “made by, used by”, or made “for” Native Americans. With that in mind our contributing CLA members have crafted and donated an assortment of the finest contemporary Native American “trade” items available today. There will be quill work, leather work, decorated powder horns, firearms, trade silver, cutlery, finger woven bags, museum documented re-creations, researched copies, and inspired artist interpretations. All this and more will be found among the items up for bid, and it took the talent and generosity of many of the nation’s top artists to make this world class assemblage available to you.
Some of these items were made by the combined talents of several artisans working together, each making the part that they are best known for and capable of, while other items were made by dedicated individual artists who spent patient hours at their solitary work benches . Many of these artists will be well known to you already, and have well earned international reputations, while some are craftsmen on the rise, working hard and being inspired as word of their talent and accomplishment grows. Whether it’s made by a team, an individual, a veteran craftsman, or a talented and emerging artist, every item donated this year conveys the Contemporary Longrifle Association’s continuing standard of excellence and exemplifies this year’s theme of being “Certifiably Native.”
As in the past years, The 14th Annual Contemporary Longrifle Show will once again be held at the Lexington Convention Center in Lexington Kentucky. The show dates for this year are August 20th and 21st, with the live auction being held on Friday the 20th at 4:00 pm.
You can contact the CLA for more information about the auction, the artists, or bidding by telephone at 1-540-886-6189 or e-mail your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternately you may write us at:
PO Box 2247
Staunton, VA 24402
See the website at www.longrifle.ws
6333 Ewen Circle
Grove City, OH 43123
143 Chambersburg St.
Gettysburg, PA 17325
PO Box 560
Claysburg, PA 16625
Phone: 814-312-1825 or 814-696-1379
Dave and Diane Chambers
(Please see in person at the CLA show in August.)
P.O. Box 155
Mouth of Wilson, VA. 24363
2210 Acorn Circle
Huntingdon, PA. 16652
Phone: 814-643-6343 or 814-386-1889
703 Saturn Dr.
Effort, PA 18330
9401 Woodcrest Rd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15237
PO box 94
Victor NY 14564
2060 Ogle Rd.
Gatlinburg, Tenn. 37738
3803 Shepard Rd.
Gibsonia, PA 15044
Frank and Lally House
PO Box 257
Paris, KY 40361
Phone: 859-707-5429 or 859-707-9677
6510 West Elcampo Grande
Las Vegas, NV 89190
7896 N. Bear Creek Rd.
Morgantown IN 46160-9064
Phone : 812-597-5885
2202 Sheffield Court,
Owensboro, KY 42301
72 Roxborough Dr.,
Sudbury, ON. Canada, P3E1J7
17775 Warwick Rd.,
Marshallville, OH 44645
686 Sterling Park,
Courtland, NY 13045
6794 Gaynor Rd.
Goshen, OH 45122
41 Lodge Rd.
Hedgesville, WV 25427
218 U.S. Rt. 50
Bainbridge, OH 45612
phone number: 740-634-3579
Michael J. Taylor
222 Twain Ave.
Cincinnati, OH 45233
6732 W. Marlette St.
Marlette, MI 48453
9210 Sonora Rd.
Sonora, KY 42776
Shawn and Amanda Webster
172 Wind Song Way
Adolphus, KY 42120
Phone: 270- 618-3451
Andrew Knez, Jr.is a painter of the 1750 to 1830 American Frontier. He uses period sources for historic accuracy in his work. (Mr. Knez’s last name is pronounced with a K sound followed by NEZ without an emphasis on either syllable.)
Mr. Knez has a love of art, history and muzzleloading arms. He is a longtime black powder shooter and moves in the contemporary makers’ circle where he is surrounded by the best work being done today. All of these facts show in his work. You have seen Mr.Knez’s art on the covers of Muzzle Loader, Muzzle Blasts, On the Trail, Backwoodsman, Black Powder Cartridge News and Precision Shooting periodicals.
Mr. Knez received his initial training at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) starting in the eighth grade in an intensive youth art project. The program was one where the students “had to earn their way through,” according to Mr. Knez. He was one of eight that remained after hundreds did not make it through the program. When he graduated from the program, he decided to attend the Pittsburgh Art Institute. Mr. Knez has never known a time where he did not use his artistic talents to make a living.
Mr. Knez made his living as a commercial artist, an owner of a screen printing business and in 1999 went into his frontier painting full-time.
Mr. Knez will paint a piece of commissioned art as long as it does not depart from his frontier niche. He also hints that looser requirements tend to make a better painting. Mr. Knez is self-published and uses his website as his sales outlet to the public.
Let’s look at the First Attack of Fort Boonesborough
I received the giclee canvas reproduction and was pleased with its quality. What I like about a good giclee canvas print is that looks virtually the same as the original painting in that it is on stretched canvas with the texture showing through. Plus the permanent dyes really look like oil paint. The giclee canvas reproduction is definitely a step above a lithograph print. Check out Mr. Knez’s website to see the accompanying story for this piece of art. Mr. Knez goes to great lengths to research and document his paintings’ authenticity.
There is a lot of additional information on Mr. Knez’s website. Here is his link: www.andrewknezjr.com
Thanks for reading,
This is what I see in the First Attack of Fort Boonesborough.
The video is only one minute long.