Native American artist Michael Haskell explores the contrast between the refined, polished nature of sterling silver and the earthy, natural hues of malachite, pipestone, turquoise and ammonite.
He uses his work as a vessel for not only transforming ancient stories and spiritual beliefs into captivating jewelry pieces, but he also gives them the power to transform their meanings based on the experience of the wearer.
Lakota Love Song
The romantic tale of the first love flute tells of the sweet song a brave, but very shy young warrior once composed for the girl he loved. As the young man played, he was able to tell her more clearly than his words ever could that he loved her…
In his depiction of this romantic tale, Michael has captured the true essence of this Lakota love story through his use of powerful symbolism, exquisite design, and ethereal composition – feminine and masculine forms are intertwined with symbols of love, new beginnings, and family.
Circle of Life
At the heart of Lakota Indian philosophy is the belief that all elements of life move in a never-ending cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
“Everything the power of the world does is done in a circle. The sky is round and I have heard that the Earth is round like a ball and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were.”
—Black Elk, Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux
As he incorporates images of the sun, a morning star, rain clouds and lighting, as well as symbolic animal imagery into this jewelry piece, Michael uses integral elements of the Lakota Sioux universe (and the natural world) to illustrate this continuous life cycle.
Many ancient Native American tribes have great respect for the bear. According to legend, if a native hunter killed a bear, he and his tribe would welcome the bear as if it were a guest before harvesting the meat and using the hide for clothing and bones for tools.
The Bear also represents motherhood, as the bear is known for their aggressive nature when protecting cubs. One popular Native American story tells of a bear who took an Indian chief’s daughter as his wife; when the couple later gave birth to twin bear cubs, she became known as Bear Mother. It was believed this union created a powerful bond between man and bear and also illustrated the Bear as a symbol of family.
In his Mato Oyate jewelry design, Michael celebrates the Family of Bear. He sets inlaid bear designs in a myriad of all shapes, colors, and sizes among medicine wheels (circle of life), bear tracks (marks of where one has been), and symbols sacred to the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Inspired by these Native American myths and legends, Michael’s goal is to incorporate them into a body of work that maintains a universal feel – one that all people can relate to. His wish is for the owner to create a bond with these pieces and reflect their own spirit into the artwork.