I work with lots of different mediums when I make jewelry: gemstones, metal, glass, porcupine.
About 5 years ago I put out the word that I was looking for porcupine quills and if anybody came across a clean road kill, grab it for me.
Now you have to remember that a) I live on the Rez; and b) if you put out a request for something you’ll more than likely end up with it. And dead porcupine does not raise any eyebrows whatsoever in these parts.
It only took a few days before I was presented with a fresh kill. How did I know it was fresh? It was the middle of summer and there was no stink.
Yet. Which meant that I had to work fast to harvest as much as I could. So for 4 days after work I spent several hours hunched over a dead porcupine pulling out quills with a needle-nose pliers.
Those hours turned out to be very calming for me. I’ve been taught many things in my years living on the Rez, and one of those things is that you give thanks for everything you receive. So I thanked that porcupine for giving up it’s quills for me and praised it for it’s life. It might sound silly to some, but when you’ve been given a gift like that it can humble you in ways you can’t imagine.
And if anyone had stopped at the house during those times they would have seen a grown woman talking to a dead porcupine.
And they wouldn’t think it was strange.
I collected thousands of quills from that marvelous creature and respectfully laid him to rest. I immediately cleaned a couple hundred and left the rest in a sealed container in the attic of the garage until I felt the urge to incorporate them in my jewelry.
Which I did a couple weekends ago.
Let me just say that those quills are SHARP! I thought Calie’s claws of pain were bad, but these things? OUCHIES!!
It takes a long time to clean these things because you have to separate them from the fur that came along when you pulled them out.
Then you have to carefully swish them around in water to remove any dirt and grime that they’ve had on them. I learned the hard way to used the back of my fingers to move them around so that they didn’t accidentally poke into me.
But unfortunately, one decided to imbed itself in my finger. And I couldn’t get it out. And it hurt.
There are a couple things I learned about porcupine quills: they are not hollow and they will soak up water very quickly. And I didn’t want soggy quills for what I was going to use them for so I had to clean and dry them quick.
Another part of the process is removing those deadly sharp ends. I’ve discovered that floral foam is excellent for this step. It holds the quills in place and I can cut those ends off with no problem.
I had some inspiration on what I wanted to make, so I high-tailed it out to my studio and went to work.
I’ll be getting these and others up in the jewelry section soon in case anyone wants to buy them.
Gotta start paying for this castle in the Northwoods dontchaknow.