Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Whatzit Answer: 9/19/2008

Last Friday's Whatzit garnered two guesses: A silly guess (my apologies, Jeff, if this answer was sincere) that the object in question is a decorative figleaf, and a more serious guess (thank you, May) that the object is a pincushion.

Whatzit - 9.19.2008

I would agree with May, that the practical use of this object was as a pincushion, although I might also imagine that it was simply hung on the wall. In our database, however, we call it neither a pincushion or a wall hanging; it's a whimsey.

Yes, whimsey, as in whimsical, fanciful, fun, silly. Produced by tribes of the northeast, often Iroquois or Mohawk, whimseys were popular between 1890 and 1930, often sold at craft fairs or, notably, to tourists at Niagara Falls. Whimseys were produced in many shapes and styles. The whimsey in Friday's post is known as a trilobe heart, but the boot was also a very popular style. We have many examples of whimseys in our collection.

An essay on Iroquois beadwork is available here, and images of many more whimsies are available here.

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