Its totality of 1,682 pieces of exotic wood required weeks of intense labor, planning and woodworking skill.
Chickasaw artist Vicki Lynn Somers of the Pauls Valley and Wynnewood area counted them: 608 pieces of maple, 589 pieces of wenge, 380 pieces of bloodwood and 105 pieces of yellow heart.
She titled the work “Ittapatkachi Wooden Bowl.” Ittapatkachi is Chickasaw for “pieced together.”
The “open segmented bowl” earned a Southeastern Art Show and Market (SEASAM) Judges’ Award and may be enjoyed – and purchased – by visiting SEASAM.net featuring a complete gallery of artists.
”I cut the raw wood into strips and glued it all together,” Somers said. Once the glue was set, the Chickasaw artist placed the bowl on a lathe and painstakingly shaped it with handheld tools as it whirled on machinery in her workshop.
“After the wood is cut into strips, you’ve got to cut all the little pieces,” she said. “Once you start gluing the pieces, you can only do one row at a time, and then it must completely dry before you can start on the next row.
“I believe it took between 50 to 60 hours to complete, and that’s really not paying attention to the hours where I would glue a row and then wait for it to dry,” Somers said with a laugh. “I’m not sure how many weeks it took. It was quite a few.”
The bowl progresses upward 36 rows to a completed height of 7.5 inches. Its final diameter is approximately 16 inches. Staggering the blocks of wood and alternating the pieces, a delicate and beautiful form takes shape that gives the illusion that it was woven.
“I do art because I enjoy it,” Somers said. “I have made a living performing commissioned carpentry tasks for many, many years. I’ve built storage buildings and have performed a lot of remodel work. Once people saw the quality of work we do, we’ve had no problem making a go of it. In fact, we have a waiting list,” Somers stated.
Her art endeavors took shape in the 1970s. She performed intricate tooled leather work back then and added carpentry work later. At 68, Somers believes she has been active for more than 40 years on various art projects but only began entering art shows about five years ago.
“It was the Chickasaw Nation that inspired me to start doing art for festivals and shows,” Somers said. She entered SEASAM for the first time in 2015 and earned a first place award. She has also earned recognition and awards at the Artesian Arts Festival. That show, which attracts hundreds of First American artists lining the streets of Sulphur, Oklahoma, took place virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Somers considers herself “retired” and lives peacefully on 53 acres of land near Wynnewood, Oklahoma, near where she was born. She traces her Chickasaw ancestry to her great-grandfather Henry McGill who registered with the Dawes Commission in the late 1880s.
She feels pride in her Chickasaw heritage, saying her First American blood is “instilled in me through my ancestors.
“My uncle told me if the bowl didn’t sell during the virtual market, he would buy it,” Somers said with a hint of mischief in her voice. “I told him that was great, but he was going to pay full price, or it was coming back to my house.”
All SEASAM art will remain for sale on the website through Dec. 31, 2020.
(Courtesy of Chickasaw Times, contributed by Gene Lehmann, Media Relations)