Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting, Norma Roberts, a delightful Native American artist at an exhibit on Whidbey Island. Norma says her Native American heritage is Lakota. Her great grandfather, a Lutheran minister from Norway, married a Lakota woman. They had nine children, one of whom, was my grandfather. Even though the art pieces I looked at reflected Native American tradition, Norma feels her work doesn’t necessarily always reflect that tradition. She says she ” I like a variety of things I have seen in our journeys through the years.”
“One of my favorite things to make is stick people.” The one shown is two people-one blanket. She explained: “When young Lakota couples were courting, they were wrapped tightly in a blanket. Many tribes wrap the wedding couple in a blanket, and sometimes they welcome each guest into the blanket with the wedded couple— a way of thanking them for celebrating their joining as one.”
Another of Norma’s creations that immediately caught my eye was her Star Books and Boxes. The boxes, like the Star Books, are handmade. She cuts the paper, folds, and glues the box together. The top is also handmade and is just a bit larger than the bottom of the box. What she puts on lid of the box depends on what she puts inside. If the interior book has something to do with nature, she may put a leaf or a small stick wrapped in fine copper wire, or figure on the top of the box.
Norma says she loves her Star Books. She doesn’t sign them because she doesn’t want to take away from them. She does sign the box that holds the book. Each Star Book is composed of various layers of cut out paper with stamped images, buttons, a leaf, or some other ornament clued on the page. Each page contains a quotation, none of which is original to her. The pages are cut in such a way that when one opens the book, it forms a star. Because of her love for leather, the book covers are leather with a matching or contrasting ribbon holding the book shut.
I asked what her training was. She claims no “formal” training, but admits taking a book-making and a card-making class at the Coupeville Art Center. According to Norma, things just “snowballed” from there.
In my next article, I interview Gerry Roberts, the other half of this charming artist couple.