Jason Brown imbues modern jewelry with ancestral energy
Jason Brown of Penobscot Nation infuses his contemporary handcrafted jewelry with positive ancestral energy.
Brown, who formed Decontie & Brown with wife and partner Donna Decontie-Brown, says it’s gratifying to see people wear their innovative Wabanaki-inspired jewelry and clothing — including leggings, dresses, hoodies and haute couture gowns.
“Unfortunately, some people think of us (Native Americans) as being in the past. This places us in the modern world,” he says.
Brown has sold his artistic creations since childhood; he recalls walking door to door on Indian Island to ask relatives and friends if they’d like to purchase his beadwork pieces.
These days, his fan base has broadened considerably. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg purchased one of Brown’s necklaces, and took a photo with him, at the 2016 Santa Fe Indian Market.
Brown and Decontie-Brown will be selling their luxurious pieces locally at the 23rd annual Maine Indian Basketmakers Holiday Market on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine.
A raffle will be held for Brown’s Wabanaki Creation Cuff.
The woven brown ash and argentium silver bracelet depicts the story of Koluskap. According to legend, the culture hero shot an arrow into the heart of a basket tree and Wabanaki men and women emerged from the split in the tree.
Wabanaki people remain interwoven with the brown ash tree; they exclusively use brown ash when making baskets and, in Brown’s case, jewelry.
Raffle tickets are $5 each and may be purchased at the event or by calling 207.581.1904; proceeds support the holiday market.
“It’s an important show,” says Brown, adding that many kudos go to Hudson Museum director Gretchen Faulkner and Jennifer Neptune at the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance for organizing the popular free event.
Brown says it’s gratifying to see people be drawn to, and joyfully wear a piece of handcrafted jewelry or clothing. And he feels privileged to share a part of himself, as well as Penobscot culture and history with others.
Brown has creation cuffs made with copper and brown ash in the permanent collections of the Maine Historical Society in Portland and Historic New England in Massachusetts.
He was introduced to metalwork at Brewer High School and continued developing his talents at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Brown and Decontie-Brown will be joined at the holiday market by award-winning members of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance — which focuses on preserving the ancient art of brown ash and sweetgrass basketry and passing on the tradition to future generations.
Tradition-bearers and new artists representing the next generation of weavers will be at the showcase event, as will birchbark artists, carvers and beadworkers. All will have items for sale.
In addition to the one-of-a-kind artforms, there will be demonstrations, storytelling, traditional music, dancing and drumming during the day.
The schedule is as follows:
- 10 a.m. — Welcome ceremony
- 10:30 a.m. — Traditional Penobscot songs with Kelly Demmons, Penobscot
- 11 a.m. — Brown ash-pounding demonstration with Eldon Hanning, Micmac
- 11:30 a.m. — Children’s dreamcatcher workshop with Lisa Tompkins, Passamaquoddy, in Hudson Museum’s Maine Indian Gallery
- Noon — Basket demonstration with Gabriel Frey, Passamaquoddy
- 12:30 p.m. — Drumming and singing with Chris Sockalexis, Penobscot
- 1 p.m. — Birchbark demonstration with Barry Dana, Penobscot
- 2 p.m. — Burnurwurbskek Singers
- 3 p.m. — Hudson Museum Friends raffle drawing for the argentium silver and brown ash Wabanaki Creation Cuff by Decontie & Brown
For more information, call 207.581.1904. To request a disability accommodation, call 207.581.1226.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777