SCAPPOOSE, Ore. – “When I was young, my mother tried to instill in us children various different traits and show us how she grew up. She was very proud of her Native American heritage and would wear her weather beads on bad days. She also wrote a poem called ‘Baby Indian Moccasins’ and when someone was born, she’d gift them with some moccasins and a copy of her poem,” said artist Fara Sorensen, Cherokee/Ojibway. “Also, my father very much loved nature, and they would take us out hunting. That was when my mother taught us how to carve wooden beads and to be respectful and not waste anything, the way she said the white man hunters did.
“So I learned from her and things just kind of grew from there,” said Sorensen, choking up at the memory of her mother’s early passing. “And before she passed away from breast cancer when she was 50, I made a promise that I would keep what she taught us going for the family.”
Sorensen has kept her promise to her mother and more. From moccasins to dream catchers, healing necklaces and feather fans, her hands have not been idle. Now she goes to the mountains with her own husband and four children to hunt and gather. Home they come with wood, horn and bone that Sorensen works into magical webs of sinew, colored by a pastel rainbow of gemstones. From tiger eyes to lapis to amethyst, her muse is soft and gentle.
In addition to pow wows and her Web site (www.artbyfara. com), Sorensen sells her work in Portland at Bonnie Kahn’s Wild West Gallery and through Chinook Frontiers in Scappoose. But it wasn’t always so.
“One time we were camped out, and I set my art on the tent early in the morning while the kids were still sleeping. People would stop and ask to buy, but I’d say no. I wasn’t prepared for it back then,” Sorensen recalled. “But then my little brother, who is a big sales person-type, said, ‘Sis, you got to take a drive and take your stuff and just put it out there.’”
Sorensen’s husband, Bruce, had been encouraging her as well; so the next thing she knew, there they were on the Oregon coast in Canon Beach, an artist’s enclave, carting her work around in pasteboard boxes.
The first place they stopped wasn’t right. “So we walked down the road to this other gallery-type store and she said, ‘Yes,’ so we hung my dream catchers in there. It was kind of scary,” Sorensen said. “But I thought it would be fun family business.” A’sha-Nah-Ta, the name of Sorensen’s Web business and a word that means “eagle soaring” in Navajo, has turned out as intended.
“I’ve been working with the children, and they are learning to do art, too. On family gathering trips, my kids can find the proper woods and they know how to give thanks,” she said and paused. “Yes, we try to give thanks for the gifts we receive each day. That way we remember to walk softly on the Earth.”
Once home with the mountain root wood, contorted river driftwood or twisted roots gathered from the Pacific Ocean, Sorensen contemplated her dream catchers. She went out to the piles of wood to see which pieces spoke to her. Then she washed them. “And if they need to be boiled and bent,” she added, “we do that.”
Then came the drying in the oven, or behind the family’s wood stove. “After the framing is strong, that’s when we get to turn into spiders and start weaving,” Sorensen said. “And when you weave for someone, that person is constantly in your thoughts and heart as you weave their dream catcher for them.”
She explained how she always leaves a hole in the center, where she hangs a crystal from a cleansing strand. “That’s because when the sun’s rays kiss the dream catcher it radiates the sun’s energy through the dream catcher, and it kills all the bad dreams and all the evil spirits and all the bad energy that the dream catcher has entrapped from the day before.” Sorensen noted that that’s why the tribes made these pieces in the first place. “Dream catchers were protection pieces. They made little tiny ones to put on cradleboards and bigger ones for lodges and tipis.”
Clearly, weaving dream catchers is soul work for Sorensen. That she puts the same love into her other art forms is clear. And that she’s kept alive her mother’s dream is also there for all to see.