Published March 9, 2016
SEATTLE—Eighth Generation, the first Native-owned company to offer wool blankets, has released a video preview of their collaborative blanket with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi (Dowagiac, MI). The Seattle-based small business has been offering wool blankets since October 2015. This groundbreaking project is Eighth Generation’s first collaboration with a tribe, and it demonstrates what is possible when Native people have ownership over all aspects of the development and manufacturing process.
“These early collaborations are the critically important to a small business like ours,” says Louie Gong, Eighth Generation’s President and CEO. “It’s the tribes like the Pokagon Band – the ones that are choosing to create custom blankets with us right now – that are helping us prove that it’s possible to update the blanket tradition from one that drains resources and opportunity from cultural artists to one that creates opportunities for cultural artists.”
As an artist with 20 years experience in the education field, Louie’s background made the creative process flow naturally. Sam Morseau, Director of Education for the Pokagon Band’s Department of Education, said, “Through the creative process, Louie and I were able to design an image that encapsulates the traditions, culture, and sovereignty of a proud nation. The result is something that future generations will be excited to receive in honor of their educational achievements.” Sarah Agaton Howes (Anishinaabe), a participant in Louie’s InspiredNatives Project, was also hired to provide design support on the project.
“We understand how the blankets will be used, and we have a lot of experience translating a culture-based vision through cultural art. That’s something this market has never seen before,” Gong said.
The 100% wool blanket with suede edge band features the “Tree of Life”. The design honors traditional Woodlands floral artwork, the maple tree, traditional materials and the Pokagon Band’s role among the Three Fires Confederacy as the “Keepers of the Fire.” Most significantly, the blanket was created in different colors schemes – copper and sunset – to represent different levels of student achievement. With these two variations, the Pokagon Band plans to promote and encourage students’ long-term educational success. This blanket is exclusive to the Pokagon Band, and it will not be available for retail sales.
See a brief highlight video of the blanket here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oi8rVu4gXv4. Photos of in-stock blankets are attached.
Working with Eighth Generation, Morseau says, was a different experience: “We had reached out to other makers of wool blankets, but the common response was that it ‘wasn’t possible’ or the cost would be astronomical. It is the personal touch that separates Eighth Generation from the pack. The passion and dedication of their team to ensure their clients are informed, part of the process, and satisfied with the final product is extraordinary.”
With collaborative blanket projects in the works for 7 Native artists, including high profile designers such as Bethany Yellowtail and Jaimie Okuma, Eighth Generation is well on its way to establishing a new tradition that values and honors cultural art while creating opportunities for cultural artist.