Aleutian Islands Bentwood Hats (3 of 9): Mike Livingston
Unangax men of the Aleutian Islands wore hunting hats and visors that were shaped from carved, boiled and bent planks of driftwood, intricately ornamented with painted lines and spirals, glass beads, walrus ivory figures and sea lion whiskers. These magnificent hats were practical headgear for kayak hunters and at the same time works of art that vividly expressed the spiritual connection between people and the creatures of the sea. Two contemporary Unangax hat makers – Patricia Lekanoff-Gregory and Michael Livingston – spent a week in 2012 as artists-in-residence at the Arctic Studies Center in Anchorage, working with advanced apprentices Delores Gregory and Tim Shangin. They examined bentwood hats and visors in the Living Our Cultures exhibition and Anchorage Museum collection, and they demonstrated carving, bending, and decorative techniques to visiting students and the museum public. The videos presented here, filmed during the residency, provide step-by-step instructions on how to make a bentwood hat and information on the use and significance of these hats in the past and today to the peoples of the Aleutian Islands. There are also in-depth interviews with the artists and apprentices, providing first-hand information about the Aleutian Islands region and this important art form. To learn more about Unangax culture, please visit the exhibition website Sharing Knowledge at http://alaska.si.edu where you will find information about all Alaska Native cultures and educational materials in the Resources section.