You are not claiming to be Maori or First Nation or Hindu or
whatever. You are expressing your interest in and admiration for
the culture behind the symbol. Sounds like a positive thing that
could bring about increased awareness of the culture.
I dance around this fire all the time, doing designs based on
ancient patterns and symbols. At one craft fair that I showed at,
there was even a demonstration by people of color who were against
Cultural Appropriation. This led me to create my Viking Collection,
one of the most popular and profitable collections of jewelry I have
ever designed! But I decided years before that not to put designs out
on the market that are the cultural property of a minority group,
such as Native Americans, especially if they also make jewelry. I
feel that they, not I, should be sought out to purchase such items
from. I have made native symbols at the request of natives who wanted
to commission them from me. One of my pieces even rests in the grave
of a notable local medicine man. But I will not make “Indian jewelry"
to put out for sale to the public. I think it would be very wrong for
me to do so. There is plenty of real, Native made jewelry available
on the market. I have local Native folks buying my eagle and deer and
bear amulets all the time, but I have been careful to design them
myself without relying on any Native silversmiths’ styles. I believe
they want them because the pieces evoke deer or bear, not because
they look like 'Indian jewelry”.
The Native American question is fairly easy for me, but what about
some other cultures? I am thinking of doing some design around the
Hand of Fatima, an Islamic symbol, that would incorporate the idea
of Peace into the design. I feel that this would be a very positive
concept in today’s world. But I know very little about the culture
or its traditions of possibly protecting designs. I do know that I
saw a hand design clearly derived from it that someone brought back
from Israel and she told me it was something like the Hand of Peace
(or something), never knowing that it was Islamic derived. So someone
in Israel is selling them with a different story than what I have
read in design books. Hmmm, interesting. Sounds a little suspicious
to me. I will make up my own mind on this one, but input about the
Hand of Fatima is welcome. I do know that Fatima was the daughter of
Mohammed. I will do more research before proceeding to design.
I would not have a problem making a commissioned piece for someone
with just about any symbology on it, as long as it was not
offensive, like a KKK sign for example. I have had inquiries about
Stars of David, for example, by Jews who saw my crosses and Pagan
designs in my showcases. They didn’t mind requesting symbols from me.
I haven’t got around to that one yet, but I think I will. So I don’t
think I have to be a part of a religion to help people celebrate
their own beliefs. But there is something else going on with many of
the other, perhaps more exotic or minority cultures. It is trendy and
cool to have various ethnic designs right now. There may be no
respect for the cultures at all by the makers, many of whom are just
in it for the profit. How many millions of dollars have been made
using the image of Kokopelli? Jewelry, lamps, clothing, etc., etc.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Native Americans got all that money? I am not
condemning anyone who feels a connection to this material and wants
to work with it, but I do have serious reservations about doing it
myself, for profit. And there are unquestionably many designs out on
the market that have been created with no reverence for anything but
the almighty dollar. That irks me. If you want to make a
religious-based piece for yourself, or to give as a gift, I would
never question it. But please think seriously before appropriating
symbols for your own profit. You may be genuinely adding to the
culture you admire, or you may be taking away from it.
I know there are inconsistencies in my above remarks. You see, it is
an ongoing process for me. Please don’t be threatened by my
discussion. You know what is in your heart, if you are a maker of
objects. I know of at least one maker on this list whom I admire,
who probably is not Native American but does related material, and
whom I believe comes to the material in a good way.
May I be well. May you be well. May all manner of things be well.