Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Ring Sling / The Eye

Been working on a few new ideas. This sling I am calling the Ring Sling or maybe The Eye Sling.

There's nothing particularly remarkable about the design. Unfortunately the ring doesn't give the the sling any special powers but it's unique and I like where it's going.

The front and back of the first one. This one is still a work in progress and now sits with the other unfinished projects or the one's I got bored with waiting for me to come back to it.

The second has been adopted and is heading to a nice home in the Swiss Alps.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pago Slings

On my latest trip to Guam I learned that pago (Wild Hibiscus) bark is one of the preferred fibers for making rope. I want to elaborate more on this topic later but since it's been a while since my last posting I am going to make this short. As I mentioned before my phone, which is my camera was damaged by seawater and all my good photos were lost so I can't show in pictures my adventures in gathering and processing pago.

What I was told was that pago is resistant to seawater and infact, pago fibers should first be cured in the sea before they are used because they actually become stronger through the process of curing with salt water.

Unfortunately because of time constraints I was unable to adequately cure the pago I cut from the jungle in salt water before hanging it to dry before packing it up to bring back to the Mainland. In fact, the pago was still damp when I packed it and fortuantely it passed through customs and since January has been drying out on my porch.

When we were in Guam, I had the opportunity to view the only surviving Chamorro sling from ancient times known to be in existance.

Up until then I had only seen the sling in pictures. Naturally I assumed based off of the slingstone artifacts I had seen that the sling was of average size. What I learned was that the sling was much larger and the stone shown in its pouch was about the size of a potato or typical dinner roll. The size of the sling gave me much needed insight into its construction. I had always assumed that the sling was constructed using a five-strand braid but upon close inspection, the number of strands used is not five. I've been working on reproducing the exact braid and have come very close but there still seems to be something not quite right about the finished product.

The curator of the displays at the Governor's complex was very helpful and told us that the sling was believed to be made of coconut fiber. In examining the sling it was obvious to me that the sling was not made of the fiber from the husk and probably not from the palm leaves either. When I asked he said that it was theorized that the fiber came from the trunk of the coconut tree. I plan on testing that theory. In the mean time my personal theory is that the sling is not made of husk fiber and definately not from pandanus. Pandanus seems good for matting and for baskets but for a sling it tears apart too easily. I know this from making a number of slings from pandanus and it is definately not durable enough to hold together for a sling. So, my current theory is pago.

Armed with that theory, I hit the jungles of Yigo and collected pago.

I was only able to soak the pago in salt water for a short while before hanging it out to dry. With the humid climate of Guam it took quite a while.

Before leaving Guam I was able to weave one sling using the pago I had collected.

Another important fact learned was that the Chamorro sling likely had a wrist loop rather than the smaller finger loop. This makes sense because to sling large stones, the finger loop would not be practicle. Too much stress on the finger and the wrist loop is much more comfortable for slinging  heavy stone.
More to come....

Saturday, February 9, 2013

New Slings

I have a new batch of slings I'm sending back home. If you happen by The Che'Lu Store in the Chamorro Village in Agana, drop on in and one of them can be yours.

These slings are variations of Chamorro sling where I have incorporated a little weaving into the pouch. Everyone of these have been test fired and work great!

Friday, February 1, 2013

The History of the Chamorro Sling

I was about eight years old when my father made me my first sling and taught me how to use it. All of my uncles used to sling and my Dad and I still take the slings out now and again. Even though I didn’t always use one, I have always carried a sling wrapped around my hat with a perfect stone wrapped in the pouch especially when I was in the woods.
On my first trip to Guam I met Jose, the owner of The Che’Lu Store in the Chamorro village. While looking at all of the interesting items on display in his shop I saw a fiber sling tucked in the corner of one of the display cases and asked to see it. Jose seemed a little surprised that I knew what it was and I spent the next few hours talking to Jose about Chamorro history and culture and he taught me about the cultural significance of the sling. I didn’t know at the time but the Guam Seal is in the shape of a slingstone. I had my sling with me as always and before I left Guam I gave Jose my sling and took with me a renewed appreciation for the sling and its significance to the Chamorro people. I have been supplying Jose with slings ever since.
I’ve always made my slings out of leather. I didn’t know at the time that the sling had been used by so many cultures around the world and that they were made of all kinds of natural animal and plant materials. For example, of all the artifacts found in King Tut’s tomb, the golden pieces were the most fantastic but also laid with the boy king was a sling made of a flaxen material. So, since then I have been making slings from nearly any kind of material I can find.
In my research I have come across the only known example of the kind of sling made by the ancient people of Guam. Until this last trip I have only seen this sling in pictures. This sling resides in the Guam Museum but today there is no natural history museum on Guam, at least not yet. I don’t know now whether they have broken ground yet but a new museum is going to be built.

On my most recent trip to Guam, fortune did shine on me. In our search to find a public exhibit of Chamorro culture we came across a small display of artifacts at the Governor’s complex (the Latte Stone of Freedom) in Agana. There, inside one of the display cases was the only remaining Chamorro sling from the ancient era. The caretaker was most helpful and told us that the sling had been found during an excavation. Now normally, with the tropical climate of Guam, organic articles, those made of coconut, pandanus, palm etc would have disintegrated but this sling was found intact.
As I had mentioned, before this last trip, I had only seen this sling in pictures and based off of those images reproduced the same style of sling I call the Chamorro Sling.

I assumed that the sling was average in size much like any other sling. The original sling was much larger than I thought with a sling stone that was about the size of a large potato and instead of a finger loop, a loop large enough to go around the wrist was of special interest to me. Of course the size of this sling gave me an opportunity to study its construction in detail and the photos I took gave me great insight into how the sling was made. 
According to the curator the sling was found below a layer of charred remains of a dwelling and it is believed that this layer of charcoal aided in preserving the sling as well as several other woven articles found in the immediate area. I don’t know anything about that but was glad that the one item I really wanted to see was not in the island’s archive awaiting the construction of the new museum.
During my last trip I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time exploring and crafting and with being inspired by the real article I fashioned a sling using materials gathered there on Guam, but that's another story.