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Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Inspirations from the Forest

Derived from Nature

The beauty of the land inspires artists to transform natural materials into impressive pieces of art. It also helps them maintain a special connection to the land.

Keith Bear, a flute maker, storyteller, singer, and dancer from the Mandan-Hidatsa tribes in North Dakota, finds inspiration in surprising places. Where others may see a branch or a discarded piece of scrap lumber, he envisions a flute. "I think of the quality and beauty of that wood, and look inside and find the flute." He has transformed fence posts, tree branches, and even doorjambs into beautiful flutes, breathing new life into old forms.

Michelle Ryan, a quilter from Montana, relied on her childhood memories to design her Forest Service Centennial quilt. She spent many hours of her formative years "observing plants, water, and wildflowers, looking under rocks, and perceiving lighting changes on the forest."

For her quilt, stitched by over eighty volunteers, she selected assorted shades and colors to give the illusion of texture and to reflect the variety of lighting and vegetation in the forest.

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Keith Bear makes a flute.

Michelle Ryan talks about her quilt.