Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tile Beadwork pieces together past

By DYLAN LYSEN, Herald Staff Writer | 6/20/2014

The rising sun outlined the Franklin County Courthouse and illuminated the eastern sky Wednesday as Dick Crooks worked in the courthouse’s shadow.

The air was cool on the mid-June early morning. By 7:30 a.m., Crooks had been at work for two hours and was on his hands and knees cutting polished porcelain to fit perfectly around the hexagonal base that holds vegetation and the Buffalo Woman statue in front of the courthouse, 315 S. Main St., Ottawa. The manual labor made his hands dirty and his forehead bead with sweat.

The rising sun outlined the Franklin County Courthouse and illuminated the eastern sky Wednesday as Dick Crooks worked in the courthouse’s shadow.

The air was cool on the mid-June early morning. By 7:30 a.m., Crooks had been at work for two hours and was on his hands and knees cutting polished porcelain to fit perfectly around the hexagonal base that holds vegetation and the Buffalo Woman statue in front of the courthouse, 315 S. Main St., Ottawa. The manual labor made his hands dirty and his forehead bead with sweat.

It’s the kind of work Crooks does for a living, but this week, he did it for free.

“I hadn’t really done anything for the city, and I decided to do something for them,” Crooks said.

Crooks, owner of Crooks Floor Covering, 636 N. Main St., Ottawa, has worked all week to place mosaic beadwork tile around the statue, which was selected to serve as a landmark for Ottawa’s 150th birthday — or sesquicentennial this year. The beadwork represents the Ottawa Indian tribe for which the city was named, and which originally dedicated the statue Oct. 7, 1989, to celebrate the city’s 125th anniversary.

Crooks was happy to install the tiled beadwork, he said, but he decided to put in a little extra design to the project. Along with the tiles, Crooks installed gray polished porcelain to improve the base of the statue’s look.

“I thought if I was going to [place the tiles], this would have to be done too,” he said. “After seeing how they were going to look, and how [the base] was going to look, I decided I was going to do it all.”

Crooks has lived in Ottawa since 1966, he said, and opened his business in 1975. Through all those years, Crooks had seen the city grow to what it is today, he said. When organizers of Ottawa’s 150th celebration approached him about working on the beadwork project, he thought it would be a good opportunity to give back.

“They asked how much it was going to cost, and I just told them, ‘I’ll just donate it,’” Crooks said. “For many years that I’ve been here, I’ve never done anything as far as donating anything. And I think this is a good cause.”

The project has cost Crooks about $1,400 so far, he said.

“Everything I do is so rewarding, to do something like this,” Crooks said. “It’s the same way with my work. When I go out to do a job, it’s not just to go and do that job, it’s rewarding to see what you do and to change from what it was to what it is.”

After those early mornings installing the pieces to craft the mosaic, Crooks packed up about 8 a.m. and headed off to work.

“My name is going to be on one of those tiles,” Crooks said. “After I’m gone it will be there for my family and their kids.”

WORK OF ART

With the convergence of events for this weekend’s SWAN Arts Festival and Ottawa’s 150th celebration this year, Jeanny Sharp, Herald editor and publisher and head of a steering committee organizing the community celebration, wanted to tie everything together with the artistic beadwork project. The idea was to place the beadwork along with a replica of the original Ottawa Town Company seal placed on the base of the statue.

“I think it’s a tremendous enhancement to an already important historical element,” Sharp said of the Buffalo Woman piece. “I’m especially happy it comes during the SWAN Arts Festival so we have a live work of art happening.”

The beadwork consists of iconic Native American colors: turquoise, pink and green, among others.

“The colors were really important for this because the Ottawa Tribe had pastel colors that other tribes didn’t have,” Sharp said. “I think there is a noticeable absence of Native American acknowledgement and recognition in Ottawa.”

Deborah Barker, Franklin County Historical Society director, suggested using the beadwork from the Ottawa Tribe with the Buffalo Woman statue. She sent an idea for the design to Sharp, which then was recreated and embellished by The Herald’s JT Kent. Sharp then approached Crooks for his portion of the project.

It was a welcomed addition, Barker said. When the Buffalo Women statue was erected in 1989, she said, she thought something was missing.

“I had always hoped that we could tile the base for the Buffalo Women statue with some kind of [Native American] tile,” Barker said. “It seemed like the base was unfinished and this seemed like a very nice idea.”

Although the historical society knows the beadwork was used by the Ottawa Tribe, Barker said she’s not exactly sure of the beadwork’s purpose. Barker has an image of an Ottawa Tribe member wearing similar beadwork on a sash-like item, which is known as a baldric, she said.

“It’s a long narrow strip of beadwork that was either used to hold a bag or is a baldric, which is a ribbon one wears over their shoulder,” Barker said, mentioning an actual beadwork baldric in possession of the historical society. “It’s in really bad shape and needs to be conserved, but it’s an authentic piece of Ottawa beadwork.”

Crooks contribution to the beadwork project was unparalleled, Sharp said, and she was surprised he chose to donate the material and the labor to produce the artwork.

“It’s an amazing contribution,” Sharp said. “What a personal sacrifice he’s making.”

comments powered by Disqus